The rise of AI-powered health tools

Healee Chatbot — Understand your symptoms

When we started working on Healee about a year ago (well, it was a total rewrite of an older app, functionally and business-wise, so we think of it as a fresh new start) we knew that one of the components that we had planned would soon turn out to be a hot domain. Still, we didn’t anticipate that it was going to be that hot.

What we are talking about, of course, is the Healee Chatbot, and the domain is what we used to call “AI-powered health diagnostic tools or services”. Nobody, however, calls it that in public. Using words like “diagnostic” or “diagnosis” has become a taboo of sorts, and for a very good reason too: nobody wants to mislead the patient that what she’s provided with is a conclusive diagnosis, and most probably not a single company would be confident (yet) or irresponsible enough to claim that.

Everybody and their uncle are talking about and using AI these days but taking responsibility for someone’s health is a very different story.

The main idea behind all this is not that new. People have been using so-called symptom checkers long before the emergence of their upgraded and bettered AI-powered counterparts. There’s a popular joke that if you want to get “diagnosed” with a terrible disease, even when you have just a cold, you go to WebMD and check your symptoms with its symptom checker. Joking aside, WebMD is a wonderful resource with tons of useful health information.

The problem is that people often get confused by all the marketing information, disclaimers and terms and conditions. If what they are provided with at the end is not a diagnosis, then what is it? The short answer is “Context”. Information that could ultimately point you to the right specialist or something that you could potentially discuss with a doctor. Being prepared for the next step is a considerable advantage, especially when it comes to your health.

Here are some of the tools that you may find useful when you’re uncertain about your health:

Recommending one tool or app over the other is not our intention here. Especially having in mind that we’re (understandably) biased.

All of the abovementioned “symptom checkers 2.0” are free to use, so feel free to try, compare and use what best works for you. What we can help with is a set of observations and a few pieces of advice that you might find useful when looking for the right health chatbot:

There’s no clear winner

Looking for the best health tool is like looking for the best doctor. It sometimes happens that the more experienced doctor could fail to provide the right diagnosis, while the younger specialist could get it right just because she could have dealt with a similar issue recently. Same goes for AI-powered health tools. They’ve all been trained with different health data and they could “prefer” one condition over the other. Our advice is: don’t hesitate to look for a “second opinion” when it comes to health chatbots. Especially having in mind that they are all free to use.

They all work better when they are “fed” more data

If all you give the chatbot is “slight fever”, chances are the suggestions and directions you might get are vague as well.

Most are quite “chatty”

For some of the tools, prepare about 10+ minutes to answer all questions before getting to the suggestions stage. For better or worse, we made Healee Chatbot “less chatty” (the irony) and we stop “the conversation” after a certain number of steps.

A study from 2015 says that “a third of adults nationwide (US) regularly use the Internet to help diagnose their ailments”. Our last piece of advice regards just that — don’t use Google and symptom checkers for diagnostic purposes. If you prefer not going to the doctor, or if you simply don’t have the time, maybe using telemedicine is the right first step for you?

In closing, we will quote something that we recently read:

“It’s important not to take the human element out of healthcare”. Literally and figuratively.