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Medical Chatbots: A leap in the advances in Healthcare

Northern California-based hospital chain Sutter Health teams up with European tech company Ada Health for a new symptom-checking chatbot which will roll out next week.

Ada is your personal health guide, or at least that’s how it goes. Founded in 2011 by a team of doctors, scientists and engineers, Ada offers an AI-powered health platform that is helping millions of people understand their health and navigate to the appropriate care. And according to its website, about 5 million people have already downloaded and used Ada’s app.

With the recent partnership between Sutter Health and Ada Health, they are expecting to launch new software that offers a symptom-checking chatbot without an actual diagnosis from a doctor. In fact, in several days, a version of Ada’s symptom checking service will be available for patients to use for free through Sutter Health’s website.

CNBC’s Christina Farr was granted early access to the service and first-handedly experienced the chatbot with an assumption of undergoing through symptoms of food poisoning.

Ms. Farr signed up with some basic health information then proceeded to type in her symptoms and how long she had them. From there, Ada guided her through several questions to find out more about how she was feeling, which took about 10 minutes to complete.

Afterward, Ms. Farr was redirected to a webpage with a breakdown of possible explanations for her “ailment.” It said she was most likely experiencing viral gastroenteritis and that it could be home-remedied. It also said irritable bowel syndrome could be the cause of the symptoms and recommended to see a doctor.

To determine whether the chatbot gave her accurate results, Ms. Farr talked with Sutter Health’s Chief of Digital Patient Experience, Albert Chan, MD, to see if he agreed with the assessment. Dr. Chan expressed his beliefs by saying that there’s a gap in the market for technologies that can help patients determine what to do when they get sick.

“We want to get the appropriate level of care,” he added.

Dr. Chan also emphasized that these tools are meant to be an “advisory” and not a replacement or substitute for a physician or formal diagnosis.