Direction for the future of medicine

‘Chinese search engine giant Baidu is launching a medical chatbot designed to make diagnosing illnesses easier. The conversational bot is named Melody and comes built into the company’s iOS and Android Baidu Doctor app, which launched in China in 2015. Baidu Doctor allows users to contact local doctors, book appointments, and ask questions, with the chatbot intended to speed up this process.’

Source: The Verge

My father is a surgeon. It comes with some indubitable advantages. Discussing bloody operations at dinnertime is not one of them. But in this situation I was home trained to measure the importance of all different kinds of medical achievements. I’m especially thrilled when it comes to a topic that mixes my father’s profession with mine.

Digital assistants are becoming more and more involved in everyday life and I believe it is now time for them to step out of their computerized roles of scheduling meetings and playing music for us. Even if Baidu’s digital doctor is an application engineered with medical purposes in mind, I believe it should find its way into mobile phones and tablets too. And through that into everybody’s life.

I believe there will be some perhaps unexpected challenges with localization. The role of pharmacists in Asia could be different to that in other continents. In Southeast Asia, for example, people turn to them for advice more often than they go to see a doctor. There is a trained pharmacist there who often gives first diagnosis and suggests medicines. Baidu’s digital doctor will surely work pretty well in that role and could also suggest a nearby pharmacy that has the right supplies.

In addition, different geographical locations or countries tend to have different typical illnesses, so the digital doctor needs to develop a pretty deep database of solutions based on GPS and local information too.

So there is a long way to go from interpreting answers and “deep learning,” to good diagnosis and clever suggestions, and especially in areas where proper medical help is scarce. Innovations like Baidu’s have a lot to offer.