The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG), a digital health enterprise, aiming at improving health service delivery through technology, has rolled out a health chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Dubbed Mirembe, Luganda for ‘Peace’, the chatbot is the first designed for health in Uganda and among a few others in Africa like Nuru, which apart from health provides information on agriculture and finance.
The use of artificial intelligence in medicine dates way back in the 1960’s after scientists at an MIT laboratory developed ELIZA, created to mimic a Rogerian psychologist, i.e. a therapist who asks questions to the patient simply by rearranging what the patient himself said.
A chatbot replicates interactive human conversation by processing natural language and using predetermined automated text-based responses.
Researchers have since rooted for application of bots in health care, arguing that using sophisticated chatbot systems can help patients to access services more quickly and easily.
Proponents also say that chatbots can improve access to care and reduce pressure on overworked healthcare systems by ensuring more efficient interactions.
The chatbots have, however, been criticized, with opponents citing data security as critical towards maintaining patient trust.
This becomes more crucial, especially in the middle of the recent data breaches that have rocked Facebook, where the bots are hosted.
The Medical Concierge Group, the creator of Mirembe, is headquartered in Uganda, with operations in Kenya and Nigeria.
It was founded in 2012 by David Musinguzi and John Mark Bwanika, both medical doctors.
Before the launch of the messaging bot, TMCG has been other technology media like a call center, WhatsApp to offer health advice and services.
They also have a database of health services in Uganda (some have been Google-mapped) to help patients who contact them to easily reach medical experts.
The launch of Mirembe comes after the startup recently secured US$200,000 in funding, according to an interview the founders had with DigestAfrica.
On Friday, Mirembe, the AI-powered chatbot, was unveiled.
Meet Mirembe, a health adviser who can help you with your health inquiries. #MeetMirembe
Mirembe is an Artificially Intelligent health chatbot created by @TMCGLtd
— TMCGroup (@TMCGLtd) October 13, 2018
How Medical Concierge’s chatbot Mirembe works
The chatbot has been personalized as a female personal health advisor and it offers free diagnosis and care advice to health symptoms in Facebook Messenger.
Using AI, Mirembe is able to process the health symptoms provided against age, gender, symptom severity and duration, known medical problems.
To use the chatbot, you just need to go to Facebook Messenger, search for “Mirembe” in the search tab or follow a direct link.
When the link opens, you click on the “Get Started” button if you are a first-time user.
If you’ve used it before, a greeting — ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ – will bring Mirembe to your inbox.
Today morning, we had an exchange with Mirembe. After clicking ‘Get Started’, Mirembe made an introduction:
“Hello Nicholas! My name is Mirembe. I am a health advisor and I can help you make health decisions based on your symptoms.
“Symptoms are physical indications of an illness such as headache, cough, fever.”
In the ensuing conversation, she asked for the age of this writer, gender, symptoms, location among other things.
At the end of the encounter, Mirembe provides you with a summary report. You are also able to rate your experience and provide suggestions.
However, at the end of the day, technology has limits.
So, to complement Mirembe, a request-call-back option is provided at the end of the encounter so you can get in touch with TMCG’s call center medical doctors and pharmacists.
Speaking at the launch, Dr. Davis Musinguzi, The Medical Concierge Group Managing Director, said; “Mirembe is able to provide users with real-time triage recommendations and first-line health advice with a very personal touch.”
He added: “This innovation that combines world-class clinical content with Artificial Intelligence and Messenger as a platform to revolutionize the way Africans shall have access to primary healthcare. Mirembe is currently available at no cost for anyone, anywhere and at any time. This is another first from The Medical Concierge Group and demonstrates our determination to use technology to achieve universal access to affordable and quality healthcare.”