Medical informatics uses AI for diagnostic assistance

October 6, 2003

Medical informatics has found one of the first ways of incorporating artificial intelligence into mainstream diagnostic medicine.MEDoctor Systems of Napa, CA, recently announced a service providing an automated medical diagnostic system, using

Medical informatics has found one of the first ways of incorporating artificial intelligence into mainstream diagnostic medicine.

MEDoctor Systems of Napa, CA, recently announced a service providing an automated medical diagnostic system, using proprietary AI knowledge engineering at its core.

The system, designed to identify AIDS patients in the Third World more quickly, was presented this summer to telemedicine experts at the World Health Organization and International Telecommunications Union in Geneva. It is said to have the ability to identify 830 diseases.

MEDoctor cross-references signs and symptoms to disease diagnostic categories, providing instantaneous differential diagnoses to patients, physicians, appropriate health maintenance organizations, and insurers anywhere in the world.

MEDoctor's knowledge engineering system is based on computer-directed interviews averaging over 50 questions, including onset and location. The multilingual system then suggests the most appropriate confirmatory signs, laboratory tests, radiologic procedures, diagnostic studies, and treatment options.

The system provides the patient a printout of the DDX to be given to the primary-care physician, complete with medication options and side effects, specialists, and appropriate treatment centers.

"The epidemiological value of the MEDoctor database can not be overstated," said president and CEO Charles W. Kelly. "The physician benefits from increased diagnostic accuracy, reduced paperwork, and easier monitoring by using the associated online electronic medical record."

The information that the system provides can help reduce the average 19.3-minute patient encounter by about a third, meaning the physician could see one or two more people a hour, according to Kelly.

"This is even more critical in the Third World, where the average physician encounter is only three minutes," he said.

Healthcare organizations should also see cost savings due to early detection of diseases, especially HIV infection.

Kelly said future inclusion of digital radiographs in the system is "likely," though still at least three years away, depending on a decrease in computing cost combined with an increase in computing speed. Who would pay for that service is as yet undetermined.

MEDoctor is working with medical telehealth firms Africa Telehealth Group and EMG Africa (EMGA) to deploy the system in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, the first four countries where EMGA has acquired national distributorships. Negotiations for distributorships in the Philippines, India, and Japan are under way.

A demo of the system can be viewed at the MEDoctor Web site: http://www.medoctor.com.