If you've spent too many sleepless nights Googling and WebMDing your way from a sore throat to a dubious cancer self-diagnosis, you'll love the Amazon Echo's new service. Through a partnership with HealthTap, Alexa can now connect you directly to a doctor—whether you prefer an AI version or the real thing.
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Lest you worry that the robots are going to replace doctors entirely, Doctor A.I. works in collaboration with online and in-person physicians to make sure you get the care you need. It might replace your paranoid midnight Google sessions, and that can only be a good thing.
Digital house calls
Using a friendly voice that's designed to bring to mind your favorite doctor, Doctor A.I. asks you a series of questions about your health and then offers solutions that were effective for patients in similar health situations. These solutions can be as simple as suggesting that you read doctor-suggested content or as in-depth as connecting you with a physician for a live consultation. Or even helping you schedule an appointment with a local specialist or sending you to urgent care. If that sounds expensive, don't worry. Doctor A.I. asks about your cost limitations to ensure that you get the care you need and can afford.
Unlike your own Internet research, Doctor A.I. uses follow-up questions to replicate the type of medical triage that doctors are trained to perform. This allows it to better assist you with your health concerns, whether by suggesting targeted reading material or additional care from a physician (the human kind). It also uses voice, text, and even video to get to the bottom of that pesky rash or your aching back. Even better, you won't have to worry that it's judging you when you ask it to weigh in on your baby's fever at least 15 times in three hours.
A doctor you can trust?
Doctor A.I. is no slouch, either. "Years of diligent, collaborative work of some of the brightest doctors, engineers, and data scientists combined with groundbreaking work of some of the best user experience and visual designers on the planet, have brought to life a first of its kind, smart and compassionate Dr. A.I.," wrote Ron Gutman, HealthTap founder and CEO, in a statement on the company's website.
Doctor A.I. boasts impressive credentials for a newbie. It's connected to a database that contains data collected from more than 105,000 doctors across 141 specialties. Since doctors in the HealthTap network average 20 years of clinical experience, Doctor A.I. is like consulting with a physician who's been practicing for more than a million years. It's hard to get more experienced than that (and maybe even harder to find a doctor who makes house calls).
How to get started
If you're ready to give it a try, Doctor A.I. is now available through Alexa (you just need to turn on the skill), by downloading the HealthTap apps for Android or iOS, or through the HealthTap website.
But don't worry, your doctor hasn't been replaced by holograms and AI quite yet. They'll still see you the old-fashioned way—for now.