07 June 2016
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Q. When are we likely to see digital assistants for clinicians?

A. If you are up-to-date with your smartphone or tablet, then you already have access to digital assistants such as Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft) or Alexa (Amazon). These early examples of digital assistants are good for simple tasks such as setting reminders or providing information on weather, movies or sports. But their responses to queries are hard wired, so they get confused if the question you ask is too complex.

The next generation AI, called Viv, was demonstrated at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in May 2016. Do a search for 'Viv Disrupt NY' and you will see a video of its capabilities. Viv has the capacity to create software programmes on the fly. It is only a matter of time before you will be able to ask Viv: "Give me the differential diagnosis of polyarticular joint pain in a 55-year-old woman who has recently returned from a holiday in the US". This will once again challenge the role of the clinician in an age of ready access to information.

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