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Would You Trust a Chatbot Doc to Diagnose Your Symptoms?

Hey Siri, Why Do I Have A Temperature?

Millennials and Gen Z say they'd be all for digital solutions to help better manage and improve their healthcare.

Over the last few decades, technology has changed the way that people communicate, do business, and consume news for the better and so much so, for some, it's hard to imagine life pre-smartphones and apps. 

Healthcare in Ireland, while certainly far from perfect, is free and most of us appreciate that fact. What does cause concern though, is the ever-growing appointment waitlists and the overworked/underpaid healthcare professionals. It's clear that a major change needs to happen on this front and according to some new research, our generation's ideal healthcare revolution involves a greater reliance on technology. 

Allow us to introduce you to do; AI Doctors

The Future of Healthcare?

Biotech company Roche Products Ltd. polled over 5,000 participants in Britain, more than 1,000 of whom were young people, aged between 16 and 24. The results of their survey showed that 82 per cent of that demographic would like to see the NHS (the English equivalent to the HSE) embrace "digital, artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to better manage and improve their healthcare." 

Right now, multiple companies are working on and testing out systems that would let people receive medical advice from advanced computers. For example, British firm Babylon is promising to build this perfect doctor it is using machine learning and through their app, users would be able to seek medical advice via their smartphones. The AI-supported system would 'learn' over time, taking in data with every new customer that it would use to refine its diagnoses.

Almost two-thirds of young people polled in Roche Products Ltd. said they would be comfortable with a chatbot diagnosing them, instead of a real-life human. (Unsurprisingly, only 38 per cent of those over 55 said the same.) Over half went so far as to say that they would actually rather be advised by a professional via an app or website, rather than through a face-to-face consultation.

The Testing Reality

And we get it. Physically getting to see a GP, mid-week, when we're working longer hours than ever, is hard, and forking over €100 each visit isn't exactly pleasurable either. 

Roche Products Ltd. said that 82 per cent of young respondents would be comfortable with genetically profiling for any tumours and that 73 per cent would be happy to share their genetic data for various purposes. Of course, there are valid concerns over personal data being used for any kind of reason, but it would be a small price to pay if it guaranteed all-around better health. 

So, is the switch to an AI-supported healthcare system inevitable? For the younger generations, it looks that way.... whether the HSE and NHS are ready for the change or not. 

Persuading older patients to talk to a machine - and trust it with their most sensitive information - may take a little while longer. 

Main image by Alexandru Acea

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