An app that can help with diagnoses: A closer look at the Human Dx platform

In addition to impactful technologies such as electronic medical records software, medical billing software, telemedicine platforms and patient portals, smartphone apps have been a key player in the healthcare technology boom witnessed in recent years. Phone-based platforms have been especially beneficial for helping patients take charge of their health and the healthcare they receive. For example, there are apps that can help individuals manage a range of chronic conditions, as well as tools that provide guidance in terms of general health management - apps that focus on exercise or diet and nutrition typify this. 

There is a new kind of app, however, that takes healthcare diagnosis to a new level. Named the Human Dx platform, this app makes use of crowdsourced data to help physicians make more accurate diagnoses when examining patients. Read on to learn more about this fascinating and potentially groundbreaking new tool.

A closer look at the Human Diagnosis Project
As explained on the official website, the Human Diagnosis Project is an ongoing global initiative, which is testing and developing an online tool, suitable for both the smartphone and desktop, that can provide comprehensive diagnostic information, including best steps on how to treat a range of medical conditions. The platform is fueled by crowdsourced data, collected from physicians located across the world, which is then analyzed using an AI program to produce a comprehensive and succinct picture of a medical problem, along with potential solutions and next steps. Known as machine learning, the AI platform is able to reach conclusions by looking over vast sets of data, which allow for the detection of clear patterns, an article from Scientific American explained. The tool is built on the understanding that while there is a plethora of health information data out there, there isn't yet a tool that can bring it together and make sense of it in one place. 

The creators of the project, as noted on the official website, envision that the platform will one day serve as a comprehensive, centralized global resource - a medical map, of sorts - that can help both healthcare providers and everyday citizens guide a patient through the entire healthcare journey, from the initial detection of a health problem right through to post treatment care. A major objective of this project is to ensure that many more people are able to access quality care, especially those in vulnerable and underserved populations.

As mentioned, the project is ongoing. According to a report from Scientific American, a short-term goal of the initiative is to have the Human DX be widely available to free clinic and community health centers, which provide care to low-income and other underserved populations. There are around 1,300 safety net community health centers across the U.S. The app has the potential to help safety net facilities especially, as the funding is often not available at these locations to enlist the help of medical specialists. The Human DX has the capacity to remove this hurdle.

How does it work?
The Human Dx tool is currently being piloted at certain healthcare facilities across the U.S., the official website detailed. In it current format, the platform is able to help healthcare providers make a diagnosis and answer questions they may have. For example, if a healthcare provider is unable to determine exactly what a patient's rash may be, they can enter a description into the app, alongside pictures and other notes, before sending off their query. The tool then allows multiple doctors, who are part of the project community, to answer the questions posed by the physician and then provide insights into what they think the medical problem is.

The AI component of the platform then gathers all this data, before producing a report with analysis of the varying responses. In essence, the tool facilitates a collaborative approach to diagnosis, with the aim of improving the quality of the diagnoses made and reducing physician error. 

Still, as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center-based physician Dr. Ateev Mehrotra told Scientific American, more research is needed to ascertain whether diagnoses made via crowdsourced data are more effective.

"It makes intuitive sense that [crowdsourced advice] would be better advice," he elaborated, "but how much better is an open scientific question." he concluded.

Mehrotra did note, however, that  "I think it's also important to acknowledge that physician diagnostic errors are fairly common."

Mixed opinions abound
A recent article from Axios attempted to ascertain the feelings of some medical practitioners to this new, AI and crowdsourced diagnostic technique. They consulted with a several physicians, and were met with mixed opinions on the Human Dx{earlier in the article you have it as DX}platform. Ethan Weiss, for example, a cardiologist based at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, argued that there is always the risk that the advice produced by the platform could be medically inaccurate, placing patients in danger. He also expressed concern that it would be difficult to test the efficacy of the Human Dx tool.

"[the tool could end up] spitting out garbage ... I'm not sure how you'd begin to demonstrate that it works or doesn't work," he argued.

Chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Rasu Shrestha, was able to observe a more positive side to the project, however. He explained how a crowdsourced approach to diagnosis can bring more possibilities to the surface, meaning that it's less likely that something will be missed or overlooked - in his own word, "red herrings" can be avoided in this way. He concluded by adding:

"I think it's a noble effort. It's trying to do the right thing."

Human Dx receives support from notable organizations
Despite the doubts, the Human Dx project does seem to be attracting notable support. Scientific American explained how researchers involved with the initiative have now partnered with both the Association of American Colleges and the American Medical Association. 

Kevin McCarthy's picture

Kevin McCarthy

Industry News Editor

An avid traveler and news junkie, Kevin covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. As a former journalism student, he enjoys finding stories relevant to small practices and is passionate about keeping them informed. Before joining NueMD, Kevin worked for Turner Broadcasting as a Programming Intern where he conducted legal research and contributed to editorial content development. He received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Kennesaw State University and currently serves as the Industry News Editor at NueMD.

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