Covid: New AI-powered tool can assess symptoms, cut doctor visits


LAST UPDATED: April 7, 2021, 3:56 p.m.

New Delhi: US researchers have developed new Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered symptom checkers that can self-assess Covid-19 risk and potentially reduce the number of people going to in-person clinics during the pandemic.

Covid symptom checkers, developed by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), use AI to help users identify their level of Covid-19 risk and assess whether they need to seek urgent care based on their reported symptoms.

The tool is fully integrated with the users’ medical records, allowing for immediate appointment scheduling.

It also aims to provide reassurance to people who are experiencing symptoms that are not Covid-19 related, the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal BMJ Innovations.

“Symptom checkers have the potential to reduce the burden on health-care systems and the risk of person-to-person infection, so we wanted to find out how to improve these platforms so more people use them,” said lead researcher Stephanie Aboueid, from the UCSF School of Public Health and Health Systems.

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For the study, 22 university students were interviewed in winter and spring of 2020. Nine of them did not know the tools exist.

The researchers also conducted a survey on general symptom checkers in winter 2021, and data suggested 88 per cent (1,365 out of 1,545) of participants did not use one in the past year.

The UCSF tool was able to reduce the number of visits while taking into account underlying conditions along with the symptom checks and booking follow-up appointments when needed.

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