Health IT, Startups

Doc.ai is creating robo-doctors that can converse with patients (Updated)

Doc.ai, a Palo Alto-based startup, has come out of stealth mode and launched its new platform. Through it, patients can input their data and receive suggestions from an AI-powered “doctor.”

ai, artificial intelligence, machine learning, brain, technology

(This article has been updated from an earlier version.)

Imagine having your own mini-artificial intelligence doctor in your pocket.

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That’s the world that doc.ai has in mind.

The Palo Alto-based startup came out of stealth mode Thursday and launched its blockchain-based natural language processing platform.

“We want to create a whole new place where people can … put their data in and basically train their own AI,” doc.ai founder and CEO Walter De Brouwer said in a recent phone interview.

The company’s platform analyzes users’ data and makes predictions and suggestions on everything from their medication renewals to their sleep schedule.

It works like this, De Brouwer explained: Upon opening the doc.ai app, individuals start inputting their information.

doc.ai’s platform

For example, it asks each user to take a selfie. It then makes several inferences from that photo, including their gender, age, height, weight and BMI. The app also prompts patients to take photos of their medication labels and offers to refill certain prescriptions. It can add an individual’s health and lifestyle information by connecting to devices like an Apple Watch or Fitbit.

Doc.ai asks about blood test results and vaccinations, as well as other topics. It can even make inferences based on a user’s environment, such as the quality of the air and the drinking water.

“Before you know it, you have a very structured record that nobody else in the world has,” De Brouwer said. “Nobody puts all this data together.” The app represents the convergence of an abundance of a user’s health information.

After completing the questionnaire process, patients can ask doc.ai questions about their overall health, like “What do you think about my medication regimen?” or “How can I decrease my cholesterol?” The app will then formulate a response based on all the data the user has entered.

The goal of the platform is to better prepare and educate patients before they go to visit their general practitioner. “We think you should only go to the doctor for his point of view, not to be an accountant of your records,” De Brouwer noted.

During the next year, doc.ai will release three natural language processing modules: Robo-Anatomics, Robo-Genomics and Robo-Hematology, which will be available to medical providers and payers.

The startup functions as a software as a service company, De Brouwer said. Clients pay an onboarding fee, and doc.ai delivers and integrates its framework.

The company already has its first beta customer: Deloitte Life Sciences and Health Care, which is testing the Robo-Hematology solution that was unveiled in July.

“Deloitte has engaged practitioners to perform user experience testing on the solution, the goal being to test for accuracy, as well as to understand what is most important to users,” Rajeev Ronanki, Deloitte principal of Life Sciences and Healthcare, said via email.

When asked whether Deloitte will immediately make doc.ai’s technology available to patients, Ronanki simply replied that the companies are “are currently working on a rollout strategy.”

However, he did add that this is only the beginning of the partnership between the companies.

Although doc.ai was only founded last year, De Brouwer believes its impact will continue to grow. “AI is definitely going to play a big part in medicine,” he said. “It can also be used as conversational AI to educate patients more.”

The new startup isn’t the only company De Brouwer has created. He’s the founder and former CEO of Scanadu, which raised more than $1.6 million on crowdfunding site Indiegogo in 2013 for its tricorder device. But last December, the company has sent a letter to customers informing them of plans to disable the Scanadu Scout in May 2017.

Via email, De Brouwer noted what his team learned with Scanadu:

We learned three important lessons. First, that Sam [De Brouwer, cofounder of Scanadu and doc.ai] and I are passionate about healthcare. We want to continue our vision at doc.ai to fundamentally change healthcare and empower people by providing access and insight into their own personal medical data. Second, we learned that our strengths are best suited to work in a startup environment that’s fast paced, constantly changing and open to innovation. Third, we understand now from the Scanadu experience that new developments in traditional healthcare take a lot longer than you initially expected — years most likely. It is a complicated and lengthy process because we’re talking about people’s health and it’s important to be cautious and adhere to all the FDA regulations.

Photos: monsitj, Getty Images, and doc.ai