Could AI doctors save an NHS in crisis?
As the NHS continues to struggle under the burden of a growing population, budget cuts and staff shortages, news that health service provider Babylon Health believes that it has created Artificial Intelligence that could one day replace GP’s is certainly news to take notice of.
Official research indicates that the UK has only 79 GP's for every 100,000 people, with GPs in the UK seeing up to 70 patients a day, where a ‘safe limit’ has been put at 25 a day. Dr Satish Narang, who has been backing an appointments cap, said of the problem: “The day has limited hours and only so much can be managed without compromising safety.
If forced to take on more and more work without additional funding, workforce and resources, the quality of work will be compromised and unsafe in the case of patient care.”
But this week London based Babylon Health, the company behind the NHS app ‘GP at Hand’, has put out a statement announcing it believes it has tested a chatbot which has the capability to provide the same level of care as a GP, which could resolve the issue of long wait times and overstretched staff in the NHS.
Babylon states that its AI chatbot received an 81% pass rate on the final exam that trainee GP’s would face in the UK, where an average human score is just 72%. Additional tests were also put in place by Babylon and the Royal College of Physicians which looked to test the AI against a group of experienced doctors using 100 independently-devised symptom sets. Babylon's AI came out with 80% for accuracy, with the doctors scoring a range between 64-94%.
Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon said: “Tonight’s results clearly illustrate how AI-augmented health services can reduce the burden on health care systems around the world. Our mission is to put accessible and affordable health services into the hands of every person on Earth.”
However the UK’s Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) remain sceptical about the technology, stating that "No app or algorithm will be able to do what a GP does."
"An app might be able to pass an automated clinical knowledge test - but the answer to a clinical scenario isn't always cut and dried. There are many factors to take into account, a great deal of risk to manage and the emotional impact a diagnosis might have on a patient to consider."
It is understandable that GPs might be defensive about the news that an automated chatbot appears to be beating them at their own game, but with such a short number of GPs available it has to be said that this new technology could really help an NHS in crisis.