The world’s first robot doctor has been unveiled in the UK, and medical authorities have said they are keen to put the machine straight to work.
The artificial intelligence (AI) doctor will take part in a contest with a real human doctor in order to test which one of them can deal more efficiently with diagnosing common health problems among patients.
The results of the contest could have a significant impact on the future of healthcare in the UK and abroad.
British start-up firm Babylon Health will test its programme, called Check, against a doctor and nurse in a competition to see which can deal most quickly and accurately with a range of common health problems.
The smartphone app has been designed to act like a triage nurse, asking a series of questions to advise users whether their problem is nothing to worry about, something they should consult their GP about, or a matter that requires calling 999.
It does not give a formal diagnosis.
Its developers, who believe AI will transform medicine in the coming years, said last night they were ‘100 per cent confident’ their app would come out on top.
Babylon Health boss Ali Parsa said Check could analyse thousands of problems with astounding precision.
‘It is more accurate than any human, just as a computer weather forecast is now more accurate than any human,’ he said.
The algorithm was developed with the help of more than 100 doctors, who repeatedly tested it and, so far, could not fault it.
Check will not make the final step of giving a formal diagnosis, although Babylon, which is particularly keen to push into parts of the developing world where people often have difficulty seeing a doctor or a nurse, is not ruling that out for the future.
Steve Hamblin, head of Babylon’s artificial intelligence team, said: ‘As for replacing doctors, that’s not our goal. I’m not in the business of putting a doctor out of business. I’m in the business of giving them a boost.’