Automated Health Care Offers Freedom from Shame, But Is It What Patients Need?
The New Yorker - 05/23/2018
A few years ago, Timothy Bickmore, a computer scientist at Northeastern University, developed an artificial-intelligence program to help low-income patients at Boston Medical Center prepare for their return home from the hospital. The virtual nurse, alternately called Louise or Elizabeth, was embodied as an animated figure on a screen. It began by asking patients whether they were Red Sox fans, then walked them through what they should do after they were discharged. (“Your doctor has prescribed Pantoprazole. This medication is for your stomach. You will take one pill in the morning.”) Bickmore has since created a slew of these programs—an A.I. couples counsellor, an exercise coach, a palliative-care consultant—all aimed at disadvantaged clients. “It’s where we think we can have the most impact,” he told me recently. “Hopefully, the A.I. is better than nothing.”