A lot of people don't know what the chatbot is. By the definition, the chatbot or chatterbot is 'a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods.' Or simply, an artificial intelligence you can chat with.
We've traveled a long way, 50 years to be precise, from Eliza, the first chatbot invented in 1966, to 2016 that saw the expansion of artificial intelligence technology and ideas, including chatbots.
While the AI technology is still in its infancy, many large companies, such as Google, Amazon, or Facebook, already include chatbots in their services, aiming toward the future when the interaction with technology will be an ordinary thing. And not just with our computers or phones. Internet of Things will allow us to chat with our cars, TVs, or even washing machines.
Some of you might have heard about the chatbot lawyer that helped appealing over $4m by overturning 160,000 of 250,000 parking tickets across London and New York, and that is now tackling homelessness problem by providing free legal aid to people facing evictions and repossessions.
While robot lawyer sounds really cool, how about an AI doctor? Would you ask an artificial intelligence for medical assistance instead of your doctor? Most of you would probably say no, just as I said when the first time I heard about the Your.MD app, the chatbot symptom checker and virtual health assistant.
This app is the first of its kind, and relies on artificial intelligence to provide health and wellbeing guidance, as well as diagnosis advice whenever the real doctor isn't around.
However, when you ask this chatbot for medical advice, it would provide you with the trusted health information that comes from the UK's National Health Service (NHS Choices), which is also reviewed by doctors.
When you start the app, you'll be asked to provide your name and optionally, your email and location, before you enter the chat, which has the common messenger interface, simply and neatly designed. You'll be greeted by Your.MD chatbot that will address you by your name and ask how it may help.
You have three options to choose from: Symptoms, Search and Something else. Since the main functionality of this app is checking symptoms, this was my first choice.
My recent sport-related injury inspired the query, so I've typed in 'shoulder pain'. Your.MD chatbot then asked me am I asking for myself or someone else, before initiating a series of questions related to the symptom, each offering several questions (usually allowing multiple choices) that help narrow down the diagnosis.
I was asked if I have hand stiffness or pain, pain in joints, numbness or tingling in limbs, etc. before the chatbot found the two most relevant conditions to my symptoms, including repetitive strain injury, which was indeed a true cause.
Conditions are presented in a form of health articles that provide more information on the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. As said, all content is supplied by NHS Choices, which covers not only medical conditions, but also medications linked within articles' treatment section.
While chatting with the Your.MD bot, I never felt that I'm interacting with an AI or robot. It was like getting replies from a real person that was really polite and friendly, providing the queries in timely manner, as well as further suggestions.
You can also check symptoms for other people, such as members of your family or your patients if you're using this app as a healthcare provider. You'll be asked to type in their name and proceed to the chat that is done in the same manner as if you're asking about your symptoms, except for the chatbot's answers, which are personalized depending on the person you're asking questions for.
You can also use the search option, which basically works as the symptom checker. It should be noted that Your.MD chatbot doesn't allow asking too many irrelevant questions that usual AI chatbots are plagued with. You can ask it 'How are you?' and receive a reply 'Great, you?' But it will resist any further attempts of yours to continue a casual chatter and divert you back to the more serious conversation about your symptoms.
Also, the app won't ask you unnecessary questions. Your.MD chatbot is pretty straightforward and only sticks with the relevant information, which is related to health.
However, I wasn't completely satisfied with how it dealt with some serious conditions, such as chest pain. Even after I replied that I have all symptoms indicating a myocardial infarction, I got the same recommendation, i.e. to visit the article that explains the heart attack. There should be some sort of indicator implemented in the chatbot's algorithm, which interrupts the chat if users enter the 'red zone' and tells them to immediately call or visit their doctor.
The medical information is also provided via OneStop Health that lists free and premium healthcare providers that users can reach for help. Unfortunately, the app couldn't fetch the list of providers during the testing, so I can't tell how it works.
Users have an option to use Speak to doctor services available in the selected countries. Also, Your.MD app allows you to track your health using Health Tracker feature, which is easy to use allowing you to choose between four moods and to add notes daily.
You can check all articles available in the app, listed alphabetically in the Health A-Z section. The app also allows you to set alerts on latest developments in various healthcare topics, or to take one of the healthcare quizzes.
The Your.MD app is not only available for Android and iOS devices, but can also be integrated into popular messenger apps such as Kik, Slack, Telegram and even Facebook Messenger. Kudos to that.
As said, the interface is minimalistic, simple and straightforward, which I really liked. The chatbot required couple of seconds to process my questions and to provide me with the answers, which is fine.
The app shouldn't be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Also, its creators suggest users to consult with their doctor to make sure that Your.MD app is right for them.
Overall, Your.MD is truly remarkable app, and the first app that uses AI chatbot to help patients get accurate and trusted health information when their doctors aren't around. It is also a great example of how healthcare might be improved in the future by the growing AI technology.
Benefit: The app is designed as a symptom checker and virtual health assistant for patients, but healthcare providers may also find it useful