AI system to speed up hospital visits for children in China

A new artificial intelligence system is expected to reduce the time it takes for a child to visit a Shanghai hospital by about one-third.

It will begin assisting patients on Saturday, International Children’s Day, at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

Embedded into the center’s WeChat account, the system’s services include making reservations and online pre-diagnoses.

The system, developed by the medical center and Yitu Healthcare, is the first of its kind intended to make a family’s experience at a children’s hospital easier.

Yitu Healthcare said that the accuracy of the system equals what veteran doctors and nurses can offer.

The medical center said that under the current system parents need to line up multiple times to register for a doctor visit, make a payment, wait to see the doctor, take medical tests, have a follow-up consultation and buy medicines.

It usually takes a family four to five hours – or even more than six hours during peak time – for a hospital visit, much of which is spent waiting, it said.

“With assistance of the AI system, we estimate that the duration of a family’s hospital visit will be reduced by one and a half to two hours, substantially improving their experience at the hospital,” said Zhao Liebin, vice-president of the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

Using the hospital’s smart medical guidance module, parents can use voice or text messages, photos and videos to describe their child’s symptoms, based on which the AI system helps decide at which department they should register their children for medical help.

For example, if the parents tell the system that the child has a rash, the system will send the parents pictures of rashes for comparison, so that it can make a preliminary estimation, according to Yitu Healthcare.

The AI system will also recommend necessary medical tests based on the patient’s condition, which will be approved by doctors in real-time online. Traditionally, a patient needs to wait to see the doctor first to get a checklist of medical tests.

A report on the patient will be presented to the doctor before the visit.

“It can help pediatricians further reduce non-diagnostic procedures, repetitive work, restore the core value of clinicians and improve the hospital’s service efficiency,” said Fang Cong, vice-president of Yitu Healthcare.

The company said the development of the system began in 2016, and the AI system learned by studying millions of children’s medical records provided by Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center in Guangdong province.

Zhao said AI may also help pediatricians in the country’s remote, disadvantage regions to break the bottleneck of a shortage of doctors and medical resources.

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