People will likely be more truthful with a bot than a person,” wrote Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, Medium and Jelly, in an April 2018 blog post, soon after investing in Delhi-based chatbot-based health advice app, Visit. Stone’s blog is aptly titled, “Why I’m investing in Visit?”
The two-year-old start-up, founded by four batchmates from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, is an attempt to democratise healthcare and make up for the shortage of doctors, by using artificial intelligence (AI).
According to the World Health Organisation, the world suffers from a shortage of at least 7.2 million healthcare workers. Stone writes, “In India, for every doctor there are 2,000 patients lined up in clinics, waiting for hours. Accessibility to quality health advice is an overwhelming problem in a country with over 200 million people affected by lifestyle problems such as stress, chronic conditions, obesity, skin conditions, and more. This is where the technology approach by Visit comes in.”
But before we get to the nitty-gritty of Visit, let’s understand what it does. Users interact with a chatbot by adding their symptoms and the chatbot follows up with a series of questions. These questions are generated by a machine learning model, trained using a knowledge base of probabilistic relationships (over 20,000) between variables such as conditions, symptoms, risk factors and past history.
The app also offers users a free chat with a general physician for initial guidance and if required, the Q&A-based chat records are made available to specialist doctors for advanced consultation over a video call (which is a paid feature). The chatbots work in unison with the doctors. Almost 50% of queries are addressed at the chatbot level.
Visit was incubated by MapmyIndia in Delhi in January 2016, and besides Biz Stone, it has also got the attention of other investors such as Kunal Bahl and Rohit B