Innovating family medicine with AI

25 July 2022 in Company

Kicking off the 27th World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) Europe Conference in London last month, Healthily CEO and Co-Founder Matteo Berlucchi introduced a panel session on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and family medicine.

“The internet has changed everything, apart from the way we access healthcare,” he told delegates assembled in London’s ExCel Centre. “The way we, as users, interact with healthcare has not changed one bit. As a result, according to the WHO, by 2030 we will have a shortage of 15 million healthcare professionals and an overloaded system. This presents a huge pre-primary care opportunity.

“I firmly believe that self-care is at the root of all health."

Facilitating self-care

Berlucchi went on to explain how emerging digital technologies like Healthily’s digital symptom checker can facilitate self care by helping answer the two basic questions people have when they want to get well, or stay well – what do I need to know? And what do I need to do?

“These are the really expensive questions for every healthcare system. The key point of AI symptom checkers is not to diagnose, it’s to alert users to ‘red flag symptom(s)’ - to tell the user what they need to do,” explained Berlucchi.

“Currently, people turn to Google, because we all turn to Google for everything. Their data tells us there are one billion searches per day, just for healthcare info – that’s 7% of entire traffic on Google. But it’s not designed to give you answers on healthcare because Dr Google never went to med school. It doesn’t understand individuals’ situations, it just serves up a list of options for your keywords.

“Looking at NHS data, between 30 and 50% of visits to GPs are for simple, minor ailments including blocked noses, skin rashes and heartburn – they’re not life threatening but there’s no alternative. Emerging digital technologies can help reduce doctor’s workload, allowing users to help themselves and make the right choices about when NHS services are needed. With 85% of the world population owning a smartphone, AI symptom checkers have the power to really profoundly disrupt and innovate the way populations interact with healthcare.”

Berlucchi advocated using AI to create a new layer in pre-primary care, which empowers users without the intervention of healthcare professionals, guiding them through everything that happens before they book an appointment – if they need to at all.

“Telemedicine isn’t working because it needs a doctor on the other side of the screen/phone and, as we already know, there are not enough doctors,” said Berlucchi.

“We must introduce a new step, where AI understands the user and provides them with answers to those two key questions, what do they need to know and crucially, what do they need to do.

"Doctors will always be needed to conduct physical examinations and deal with the human elements of medicine, such as helping patients to make decisions about treatment options and care plans. But AI has the potential to be the gold standard for future healthcare navigation.”

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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