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WHO introduces Sarah, an artificial intelligence avatar on health topics | technology

According to a survey by the Societies of Family and Community Medicine, more than half of the population consults health topics on the Internet (semFYC) to find explanations for symptoms, complaints, diagnoses, medications, vaccines, treatments and lifestyles, among other things. Technology companies that already have artificial intelligence medical assistants are looking to capitalize on this trend. However, in these services, which are more aimed at professionals, the information remains in the hands of free resources. María del Campo, member of semFYC, emphasizes the importance of “mechanisms for searching for refined medical information”. After initial experience with many deficiencies, the World Health Organization (WHO) tried to do its part an AI health chat, Sarahwhich has just been published.

Sarah is an acronym for Intelligent AI resource assistant for health (Intelligent AI Resource Assistant for Health) and is an avatar that was already tested during the pandemic under a different name (Florence), but reappears with a new language and technology model and, for now, in eight languages, including Spanish.

Sarah answers very general questions with minimal empathy and always recommends going to the doctor. It is considered to be able to provide information on the most important health topics, but in the tests carried out in these first steps it failed to provide links to more specific medical information and was limited to very general recommendations or a basic list to offer. of symptoms associated with some complaints. She also can’t view pictures.

But despite the flaws in it Start, WHO It does not want to miss the train of artificial intelligence in its respective field or leave it to companies with economic and commercial interests. “The future of health is digital and helping countries harness the power of digital technologies for health is a priority,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a note.

“Sarah gives us an idea of ​​how artificial intelligence could be used in the future to improve access to health information in a more interactive way,” he says, acknowledging the shortcomings of the current system. In this sense, the director of the WHO “asks the research community for help in further exploring how this technology could reduce inequalities and make it easier for people to access timely and reliable health information.” Like any artificial intelligence system, Sarah strives to work with human interaction grow.

Del Campo emphasized during Self-Care Week two years ago that the high frequency of searches for health topics “suggests that there are concerns that we need to respond to,” but also warned of the importance of “the accompanying patients.” Information verification.”

The WHO also avoids the difficulties of this type of tools to ensure equal access, privacy, security, precision, bias and data protection.

“Developers, policymakers and healthcare providers must consider these ethical and human rights issues when developing and implementing AI to ensure that all people can benefit,” says the WHO.

The global organization’s warning refers to the attack by large technology companies on consultations to bring their conversation machines into the field of primary care, but always, as they say, as a support tool, co-pilot for the doctor and possible solution to the collapse of care. . According to the National Institute of Statistics, 81.4% of women and 72.3% of men use these services at least once a year.

IBM has Watson Healthan always-available conversational robot that collects basic information and alerts about possible changes that require additional attention.

Microsoft develops in the professional sector Azure Health Bota conversation system based on medical information, classification protocols and language models trained to understand clinical terminology.

Google has also entered this market with its integrated model family MedLM. Greg Corrado, head of artificial intelligence for health at the multinational company, highlights the X-ray image analysis tools and AMIE, an application “optimized for diagnostic reasoning and conversations, mimicking the interactions between the patient and the caregiver.”

The WHO launched avatar was created by Soul machines with the support of Rooftop and although it warns that it cannot access images, it requires access to the microphone and camera “to improve the conversation experience”. The organization ensures that “all data collected is anonymized and complies with current data protection practices and regulations.”

The WHO warns that “answers may not always be correct as they are based on patterns and probabilities in the available data.” In this sense, the organization warns that it is neither responsible for the conversation content created by generative AI nor “the views or beliefs of the WHO represents or understands”. The final warning to the user is crucial: “You understand and accept that you should not rely on the answers generated as the sole source of truthful or factual information or as a substitute for professional advice.”

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