Having a doctor professional diagnose your illness is ideal, but many people choose to diagnose themselves for a number of reasons, ranging from an inability to see a medical professional to plain laziness, and the Internet helps enable this bad habit. This is why Baidu has developed a new app that’s in the same vein as WebMD, one which listens to you describe your symptoms and then uses the power of the Internet to give you a quick and accurate diagnosis before connecting you with a medical specialist.
On a recent trip to Beijing, Wei Fan, a researcher for Baidu in Sunnyvale, Calif., had to deal with his mother’s unexpected ailment. Her knee ached. The wait to see doctors in the city is often arduous, so Wei called up an old friend who volunteered to stand in line for his mother. The friend waited for more than two hours. Even after leaving the waiting room, Wei said, patients like his mother may wait longer to see the right physician. His frustration with China’s overburdened health care informed Baidu’s latest product: A voice translation app akin to WebMD. Users rattle off a list of symptoms, such as achy joints, red eyes and a cough, and the Chinese search giant sends an immediate diagnostic suggestion (flu, 75% odds). Then, it links users to a nearby medical specialist. A majority of Chinese online turn to the Web first for health information, and voice search is far less cumbersome than text, Wei said. “From a patient’s point of view, you’d rather have something like natural language — something you can talk to, [so] you can describe multiple symptoms at the same time,” he told Re/code. “Our long term goal is to build a medical robot.”