Chatbots equipped with coronavirus screening have only detected the flu so far

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Though several health technology startups have added coronavirus screening capabilities to their artificial intelligence-powered medical chatbots in recent weeks, they have yet to identify any confirmed cases of the virus, Stat reports.

While one startup, 98point6, has reportedly referred two potential cases to the CDC, neither patient underwent further testing or isolation. In fact, the apps' new features have predominantly detected cases of the flu, indicating the difficulties of training AI to differentiate between the two viruses, which display similar symptoms in mild cases.

Despite this seeming lack of results, startups such as 98point6, Bright.md and Buoy Health maintain that their coronavirus-screening chatbots are helping direct patients to necessary treatments — or keeping them from undergoing unnecessary testing — and battling misinformation about the virus.

"We felt like that was an important aspect of helping our delivery system partners manage both risk and exposure — but also public concern," Ray Costantini, MD, CEO and co-founder of Bright.md, told Stat. That entails "making sure that all of those patients who do have flu symptoms get treated appropriately and effectively and quickly to minimize exposure for the more common condition that really is a much bigger risk to population health and people's well-being."

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