AI system spots child disease

Source:AFP Published: 2019/2/12 19:33:40

Technology ‘will never replace doctors’: researcher


An artificial intelligence (AI) program developed in China that combs through test results, health records and even handwritten notes diagnosed childhood diseases as accurately as doctors, researchers said.

From the flu and asthma to life-threatening pneumonia and meningitis, the system consistently matched or out-performed primary care pediatricians, they reported in Nature Medicine.

Dozens of studies in recent months have detailed how AI is revolutionizing the detection of diseases including cancers, genetic disorders and ­Alzheimer's.

AI-based technology learns and improves in a way similar to humans, but has virtually unlimited capacity for data processing and storage.  

"I believe that it will be able to perform most of the jobs a doctor does," said senior author Kang Zhang, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

"But AI will never replace a doctor," he added, comparing the relationship to an autonomous car that remains under the supervision of a human driver. "It will simply allow doctors to do a better job in less time and at lower costs."

The new technology, said Zhang, is the first in which AI absorbs unstructured data and "natural language" to imitate the process by which a physician figures out what's wrong with a patient.

"It can mimic a human pediatrician to interpret and integrate all types of medical data - patient complaints, medical history, blood and imaging tests - to make a diagnosis," he said.

The system can be easily transferred to other languages and settings, he added.

By comparing hundreds of bits of information about a single patient with a vast store of acquired knowledge, the technology unearths links that previous statistical methods - and sometimes flesh-and-blood doctors - overlook.

To train the proof-of-concept system, Zhang and a team of 70 scientists injected more than 100 million data points from 1.3 million pediatrics patient visits at a major referral center in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province.

The AI program diagnosed respiratory infections and sinusitis - a common sinus infection - with 95 percent ­accuracy.

More surprising, Kang said, it did as well with less common diseases: acute asthma (97 percent), bacterial meningitis and varicella (93 percent), and mononucleosis (90 percent).

Such technologies may be coming in just the nick of time.

"The range of diseases, diagnostic testing and options for treatment has increased exponentially in recent years, rendering the decision-making process for physicians more complicated," Nature noted.

Posted in: CROSS-BORDERS

blog comments powered by Disqus