Sutter Health to offer free symptom-checking chatbot service

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Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health has partnered with European tech company Ada Health to bring the company's symptom-checking software to U.S. patients, according to CNBC.

About 4 million people have downloaded and used Ada's app, according to its website.

In several weeks, a version of Ada's symptom-checking software will be available for patients to use for free through Sutter Health's website. Patients will not be required to sign up through the app to use the software.

CNBC's Christina Farr was granted early access to the service and tested the chatbot after experiencing what she thought was food poisoning.

Ms. Farr signed up using her first name, date of birth and some basic health information. She then typed in her symptoms and how long she had them. From there, Ada guided her through several questions to find out more about how she was feeling. It took her about 10 minutes to complete all its prompts.

Next, Ms. Farr was led to a webpage with a breakdown of potential explanations for her ailment. It said she was most likely experiencing viral gastroenteritis and that it could be managed from home. It also said irritable bowel syndrome could be a possibility and recommended she see a physician.

To determine whether the chatbot led her down the correct path, Ms. Farr talked with Albert Chan, MD, Sutter Health's chief of digital patient experience, to see if he agreed with the assessment and why he chose to work with Ada Health.

Dr. Chan said he believes there's a gap in the market for technologies that can help patients determine what to do when they get sick, which led him to contact Ada Health about a partnership.

"We want [patients] to get the appropriate level of care," he said.

As for the chatbot, Dr. Chan said he felt the artificial intelligence advised Ms. Farr well. He also said these tools are meant to be "advisory" as opposed to a replacement for a physician or formal diagnosis.

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