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A.I. Shows Promise Assisting Physicians

Each year, millions of Americans walk out of a doctor’s office with a misdiagnosis. Physicians try to be systematic when identifying illness and disease, but bias creeps in. Alternatives are overlooked.

Now a group of researchers in the United States and China has tested a potential remedy for all-too-human frailties: artificial intelligence.

In a paper published on Monday in Nature Medicine, the scientists reported that they had built a system that automatically diagnoses common childhood conditions — from influenza to meningitis — after processing the patient’s symptoms, history, lab results and other clinical data.

The system was highly accurate, the researchers said, and one day may assist doctors in diagnosing complex or rare conditions.

Drawing on the records of nearly 600,000 Chinese patients who had visited a pediatric hospital over an 18-month period, the vast collection of data used to train this new system highlights an advantage for China in the worldwide race toward artificial intelligence.

Because its population is so large — and because its privacy norms put fewer restrictions on the sharing of digital data — it may be easier for Chinese companies and researchers to build and train the “deep learning” systems that are rapidly changing the trajectory of health care.

 

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