Last updated: 03.05.17

Smartphone app creates virtual doctor

British tech firm, Babylon, is designing a smartphone app that will allow users to consult a virtual doctor and provide them with an accurate diagnosis, it has been reported.

Babylon has promised that by using the latest machine learning, the technology will be able analyse a patient's symptoms and could transform the lives of people across the UK.

The BBC has reported that Babylon will invest £50 million into the app, claiming it will be the most advanced artificial intelligence healthcare platform in the world.

The app will offer a service that allows patients to see a human GP via their smartphones, removing the need to physically visit a GP clinic when necessary.

It comes following a similar NHS 111 app created by a team of computer scientists and doctors, allowing a select number of patients in North London to describe their symptoms and then be advised on whether or not they should book an appointment or take other steps towards recovery.

In time, Babylon hopes to build on the data it gathers to help the system teach itself to become an expert at diagnosing conditions and illnesses, learning with every interaction.

Chief executive of the company, Ali Parsa, believes it will put expert health advice in the hands of smartphone users across the globe.

"Our scientists have little doubt that our artificial intelligence (AI) will soon diagnose and predict personal health better than doctors," he said.

He also stressed that the intention of the app is not to replace the role of doctors but instead to be a helping hand to GPs and relieve the current strain placed on the NHS.

"No machine can put its hand on your shoulder and say “trust me I'm going to take care of you”," he argued.

"Considering the machine is interacting with thousands of patients a day, the speed at which it is learning is significantly higher than any one individual."