An AI doctor is helping poor village doctors in South China’s Guangdong Province to diagnose patients by using artificial intelligence technology. As an intelligent assistant that can be consulted anytime and anywhere using a mobile phone, the AI doctor developed by the Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital has been introduced into 55 poverty-stricken villages in Guangdong's Yangshan County.
Village doctors receive training and learn to use the AI doctor. (Photos courtesy of Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital)
The Guangdong Health and Family Planning Commission (now the Health Commission of Guangdong Province) launched an initiative to introduce into poor villages the Dingbei Doctor app developed by the Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital in July 2018. Fifty-five poor villages in Yangshan County took the lead in using the app. The AI doctor will be gradually promoted in 2,277 poor villages in the province, according to the commission’s plan.
Luo Jinrong, a villager in Gekeng village, Yangshan County, felt ill and went to the village health station to see a doctor at the end of October 2018. Her village is located in the mountainous area of northern Guangdong. The village doctor Huang Suying took out a brand-new electrocardiograph machine to do an electrical heart sensor test for Luo. After the test was completed, the AI doctor said, “Possible aortic valve insufficiency, further examination in hospital recommended.”
Luo did not know what artificial intelligence is, so she did not believe in the diagnosis sent out by the phone. Doctor Huang also did not know what to make of the diagnostic result, so she advised Luo to go to the Yangshan County People’s Hospital for examination. The result of the inspection in the hospital was what the mobile phone said. Luo was discharged from the hospital after 10 days of hospitalization.
Doctors receive patients for treatment online in the Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital. (Guangdong provincial online hospital)
As early as April 2015, Yangshan County paired up with the Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital. There were 13 town health centers and 159 village health stations, which are separated from each other by rivers and mountains. Tian Junzhang, the president of the Second Hospital, decided to extend the online hospital built by the hospital last year to the 159 village health stations.
The online hospital, the predecessor of the AI doctor, connected experts from provincial hospitals and village doctors and help remote and poor villagers share the fruits of online medical care by remote consultations and online referrals. The online hospital has been promoted smoothly in urban areas. However, in remote rural areas, it has encountered many unexpected problems. Dialects have brought difficulties to experts and village doctors. Village health stations have not been able to provide prescription drugs. Conservative village doctors resisted the online hospital and caused the equipment to be idle.
After solving these problems, the online hospital has gradually run smoothly in the villages of various towns in Yangshan County, and the penetration rate has become higher and higher.
Village doctor Huang Suying gives an electrical heart sensor test to a villager.
With more and more rural people who want to see doctors from provincial hospitals through the network, the number of patients received by the online hospital in Guangdong Province has risen, with more than 17 million people over four years. The daily consultation volume has soared from the initial dozens of people to 40,000.
The experts in the online hospital were too busy to handle all the requests, and village doctors sometimes had to wait for tens of minutes to contact experts. When seeing the provincial doctors got tough to arrange online, the emergence of the AI doctor was a logical next step.
The AI doctor app Dingbei Doctor, developed by the Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital, has been opened to the public for free.
The Dingbei Doctor app is a smart medical application based on big data and artificial intelligence. Tian Junzhang said that at present, the Dingbei Doctor app can diagnose more than 300 common diseases, including 90 percent of the diseases diagnosed by ordinary community hospitals, and its diagnosis and treatment has basically reached the professional level of an intermediate physician and above.
The application of the AI doctor has improved village doctors’ medical concepts and the AI doctor is also constantly optimizing and improving, as village doctors learn how to use the AI doctor.
(Compiled by Zhang Jian)