The (AI) doctor will see you now: Study finds artificial intelligence diagnoses flu, gastroenteritis and meningitis in children more accurately than medics
- Artifical intelligence model was programmed with 1.4million health records
- Drew on this data to diagnose conditions with up to 90 per cent accuracy
- Performed better than junior doctors but not as well as experienced medics
An AI doctor can recognise the symptoms of childhood diseases more accurately than many human medics, research suggests.
The artificial intelligence model was inputted with information from more than 1.4million health records.
It then drew on this data to diagnose everything from flu and gastroenteritis to bacterial meningitis – with some cases having more than 90 per cent accuracy.
When tested, the system performed better than junior doctors but was not as reliable as more experienced medics.
The researchers believe AI could help sort hospital patients according to their severity, as well as improving the diagnosis of complex, rare conditions.
An AI doctor recognises childhood diseases more accurately than many human medics (stock)
The research was carried out by Guangzhou Medical University in China and led by Dr Kang Zhang, professor of ophthalmology and genetics.
‘Our study provides a proof of concept for implementing an AI-based system as a means to aid physicians in tackling large amounts of data, augmenting diagnostic evaluations, and to provide clinical decision support in cases of diagnostic uncertainty or complexity,’ Dr Zhang said.
To ‘train’ the AI model, the scientists exposed it to the electronic health records of 1,362,559 outpatient visits to the Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Centre – a major government hospital in China.
The records covered the appointments of children and teenagers from January 2016 to July 2017.
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In total, 101.6million pieces of data ‘trained’ the programme, which allowed the AI model ‘to mimic the clinical reasoning of human physicians’.
Specific words and phrases – as well as data such as patient temperature – were also input into the system.
AI WILL MAKE DOCTORS ‘OBSOLETE’
A scientist warned AI will eventually make doctors ‘obsolete’.
Artificial intelligence has a ‘near unlimited capacity’ to diagnose diseases and perform surgery more accurately than medics, according to Dr Jörg Goldhahn.
Dr Goldhahn – from ETH Zurich – also argues robots may help overcome healthcare funding shortages due to them being cheaper to hire and train than humans.
But while Dr Vanessa Rampton acknowledges AI may be a useful aid to medics, she argues it will never completely replace human healthcare.
‘Computers aren’t able to care for patients in the sense of showing devotion or concern for the other as a person, because they are not people and do not care about anything,’ Dr Rampton – from McGill University – said last November.
The programme therefore identified keywords like ‘abdominal pain’ and ‘vomiting’ as symptoms of gastroenteritis.
When tested against 20 doctors, the AI system made more accurate diagnoses than junior medics.
Although the results sound promising, sceptical experts insist AI will never take the place of human physicians.
Professor Duc Pham, from the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Birmingham, said the study was an ‘excellent application of deep learning’.
But, he added, such systems cannot guarantee 100 per cent correct results no matter how much training they have received.
‘Although the authors’ results show that on average their system performed better than junior doctors, it will not replace clinicians,’ Professor Pham said.
‘Critical judgments or decisions must always be left to qualified human experts to make.’
Dr Paul Tiffin – a reader in psychometric epidemiology at the University of York – added: ‘The authors have shown the potential for machine learning to help support rapid diagnosis of illnesses in children.
‘However, it should be stressed the machine learning system used still relied on the quality of the recording of symptoms and other findings by clinicians.
‘Thus, human health practitioners are not likely to be made redundant any time soon.’
WHY ARE PEOPLE SO WORRIED ABOUT AI?
It is an issue troubling some of the greatest minds in the world at the moment, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk.
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk described AI as our ‘biggest existential threat’ and likened its development as ‘summoning the demon’.
He believes super intelligent machines could use humans as pets.
Professor Stephen Hawking said it is a ‘near certainty’ that a major technological disaster will threaten humanity in the next 1,000 to 10,000 years.
They could steal jobs
More than 60 percent of people fear that robots will lead to there being fewer jobs in the next ten years, according to a 2016 YouGov survey.
And 27 percent predict that it will decrease the number of jobs ‘a lot’ with previous research suggesting admin and service sector workers will be the hardest hit.
As well as posing a threat to our jobs, other experts believe AI could ‘go rogue’ and become too complex for scientists to understand.
A quarter of the respondents predicted robots will become part of everyday life in just 11 to 20 years, with 18 percent predicting this will happen within the next decade.
They could ‘go rogue’
Computer scientist Professor Michael Wooldridge said AI machines could become so intricate that engineers don’t fully understand how they work.
If experts don’t understand how AI algorithms function, they won’t be able to predict when they fail.
This means driverless cars or intelligent robots could make unpredictable ‘out of character’ decisions during critical moments, which could put people in danger.
For instance, the AI behind a driverless car could choose to swerve into pedestrians or crash into barriers instead of deciding to drive sensibly.
They could wipe out humanity
Some people believe AI will wipe out humans completely.
‘Eventually, I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this,’ DeepMind’s Shane Legg said in a recent interview.
He singled out artificial intelligence, or AI, as the ‘number one risk for this century’.
Musk warned that AI poses more of a threat to humanity than North Korea.
‘If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea,’ the 46-year-old wrote on Twitter.
‘Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too.’
Musk has consistently advocated for governments and private institutions to apply regulations on AI technology.
He has argued that controls are necessary in order protect machines from advancing out of human control
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