BYE, EVERYBODY! Virtual personal health assistants are coming, says Gartner

Half the population to be diagnosed by chatbots by 2025

As chatbot technology advances it will no longer be necessary to book an appointment to see a doctor as the whole meeting can all be done with the help of virtual personal health assistants, according to Gartner.

At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, the mystical mages at Gartner have, once again, made another bold prediction: up to 50 per cent of the population will rely on VPHAs by 2025.

Research director Laura Craft said: "Technology has advanced to the point where computers have become superior to the human mind; they are more accurate and consistent, and they are better at processing all the determinants of health and wellbeing than even the best of doctors.

"Primary care physicians will be needed to care for the chronically ill, the elderly, and special needs patients to co-ordinate their care and the more complex care plans their conditions call for. But for the vast majority, replacing primary and routine care with technology is within our grasp and a highly likely possibility."

Chabot assistants are, indeed, a hot area in technology. The biggest companies are locked in a race to provide the best AI assistant by throwing all efforts into finding better natural language processing (NLP) methods, and snatching the best start-ups working in that field.

But the technology hasn't really improved much since ELIZA – a computer NLP program created by MIT in the 1960s, Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute of AI, previously told The Register.

Although computer assistants can answer questions, it's still difficult to program them to understand and respond to emotions – something that is important in healthcare. The current level of AI assistants are like a "second-class concierge", Etzioni said.

Technology isn’t the only barrier standing in the way. There are ethical and legal challenges as well. Chris Holder, a partner at Bristows law firm, previously told The Register, that the possibility of dangerous medical errors from dodgy diagnoses made by machines could pose challenges for the development of VPHAs. ®

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