Friday, January 06, 2017

Your.MD - useless, boring and playing safe

"In an experimental trial, the National Health Service across parts of London is going to test an artificial intelligence app as a way for potential patients to find out how urgent their problems are.

More than 1.2 million people living in Camden, Islington, Enfield and Barnet will be able to use a chatbot created by Babylon as an alternative to the non-emergency 111 number."
This story was carried by many outlets, the quote above is from Wired.

I wondered why there wasn't already an 'app for that'. Reading The Economist Technology Quarterly this afternoon (on AI voice systems), I found that one does in fact exist: Your.MD.

I downloaded it at once onto my Nexus 6.

Turns out I have cause to use it. For a few days I've been a little under par: lacking energy, a bit of a runny nose, some 'room spinning around' when I turn over in bed and yesterday when doing the side plank (!).

A trivial Google search persuades me this is a side effect of the common cold virus. It's called labyrinthitis. It goes away after a while.

Your.MD took a lengthy history - chatty questions followed by answer options. After a while it knew my gender, age and symptoms as described above. It concluded I was suffering from either ME or Heat Stroke.


As long as chatbots are simply doing verbose form-filling - a walk down a simple decision tree - they will be as much fun as calling the IVR system at a bank or the tax office. You want to scream, or hit something.

Of the many possible conditions consistent with my small number of vague symptoms, Your.MD chose the two worst possible outcomes.

I suppose this is fear of litigation, baked into the app.

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