Digital doctor app Babylon Health has revealed an artificial intelligence system with “imagination” that it claims can more accurately assess patient symptoms and support doctors on the frontline.
A study, published in peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, showed that an AI programmed by Babylon researchers to use “causal reasoning” could offer a more accurate diagnosis of a patient versus existing algorithms.
Doctors assessing patients must consider a range of different diagnoses based on the symptoms they are presented with, a task that requires them to “imagine” what a patient has been affected by.
Existing AI systems, which learn to spot correlations and patterns in data, are unable to do this.
The new algorithm allows the AI to consider what symptoms “it might see” if the patient had a different illness from the one it was considering, a key factor in doctors’ assessments of patients.
“We took an AI with a powerful algorithm, and gave it the ability to imagine alternate realities and consider ‘would this symptom be present if it was a different disease?’” said Dr Jonathan Richens, a scientist at Babylon and lead author of the research. “This allows the AI to tease apart the potential causes of a patient’s illness.”
Babylon, backed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, currently operates AI in a chatbot available to patients in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Wolverhampton.
To determine the accuracy of the new AI, Babylon created over 1,671 different medical cases that included typical atypical symptoms of more than 350 illnesses, though it has faced some criticism over its accuracy.