Like Uber, get a VIRTUAL doctor on your smartphone


Los Angeles, USA: As the number of cellphone users around the world continues to grow, more people are able to get services with mobile apps. One of the latest innovations is on-demand medical care. The University of Southern California Center for Body Computing says it uses virtual reality technology and artificial intelligence to provide care for patients anywhere in the world. Elizabeth Lee of Voice of America explains how it works.

From ordering food to getting a ride, mobile apps allow users to get what they want by just pressing a button.

Soon you may also be able to get a doctor – on demand. Well, a VIRTUAL doctor, actually!

Dr Leslie Saxon, Center for Body Computing says: “We’re trying to do the same thing for medical diagnosis and care.”

Now, This doctor is a virtual human, in this case, an avatar…of Leslie Saxon, a heart doctor.

Dr Saxon further adds:“There are only so many experts in the world and we’re never going to be able to bring the world’s medical experts or have enough to supply the need of the entire world.  So we can clone — if you will — many of the experts to provide care anywhere anytime, without borders so that I can treat patients in Iran or Indonesia or India as easily as I can treat them in Los Angeles.”

Researchers here at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. have been able to create virtual humans that not only interact with real people but respond with empathy.

Randall Hill, Institute for Creative Technologies says: “We can pick up signals there that tell us whether the patient is depressed or happy or whatever.  And so we’re able to use that and create an experience.”

Saxon says in many ways, VIRTUAL doctors can be better doctors than their HUMAN originals. She adds: “We’re human doctors. We’re not always in the same mood. We’re not always delivering information in the same way. We’re not always as current as we need to be depending on the type of visit that we’re having. So these virtual humans hopefully are smarter. Potentially, they even read the patients better.”

The VIRTUAL doctor will have the knowledge of its human counterpart to diagnose problems and provide tailored information about a certain diagnosis based on patients’ characteristics and where they live. Sensors on a phone or worn by the user can provide more information for the virtual doctor. Creators say an avatar like this does not replace real doctors, it enhances them.

And in some places, it helps equalize medical care.

Dr Saxon elaborates: “We can bring everything that’s built in developed countries sophisticated medical systems and knowledge across the world where they are not built.”

The mobile application for the Virtual Care Clinic will be available later this year. The aim is to have virtual doctors speak in multiple languages.

((Elizabeth Lee For VOA News Los Angeles))

The video brought to you by NewsGram in collaboration with VOICE of America.