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Revolutionizing medical triage with artificial intelligence

January 27, 2022 + Jessica Di Palo
4 Min read

Healthcare systems worldwide have been stretched to the limit by the COVID-19 pandemic, opening the door to AI driven revolutions in healthtech. The symptom checker, Mediktor, is leading the way.

Medical Triage by Mediktor's Oscar García-Esquirol and Cristian Pascual
Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder Dr. Oscar García-Esquirol and CEO & Co-Founder Cristian Pascual

Ten years ago, Dr. Oscar García-Esquirol was playing Akinator at the beach with some friends. It’s a digital version of ‘Who Am I?’ that attempts to guess what fictional or real-life character the player is thinking of by asking a series of questions. It uses an artificial intelligence program that learns the best next questions to ask through its experience with players, and that afternoon García-Esquirol, the Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of Mediktor, had an inspiration.

“I thought, ‘this is the medical triage we do at the hospital in the emergency department’. When a patient arrives, we ask what the problem is. Maybe they tell us they have chest pain, so we ask whether the pain is continuous or intermittent and we continue on the path until we make a final diagnosis. And that’s how the idea first came about – a summer’s day at the beach!”

An intensive care physician for the last 20 years, Dr. García-Esquirol first envisioned Mediktor as a tool for healthcare professionals to classify the conditions that may be responsible for a patient’s symptoms. “When you work in an emergency department, you’ll always think about the first or second possible conditions but maybe the 5th condition on the list could be the one responsible for the symptoms that the patient is suffering,” he said.

His colleagues were interested but saw it as a version of a distant future, a nice to have but not a priority. Enter COVID-19 and the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has put an immense strain on healthcare systems globally, driving the rapid adoption of digital medicine, including the use of artificial intelligence. Indeed, according to CB Insights, the first quarter of 2021 saw nearly $2.5 billion raised by startups focusing on artificial intelligence in healthcare – a new funding record.

medical triage Mediktor product Mock Up
Mediktor's solution to assist with medical triage for healthcare systems.

A tool like Mediktor can add immense value across the entire healthcare ecosystem, from hospitals and insurers to the pharmaceutical industry and telemedicine platforms. In addition, it is directly helping patients at home.

“7% of searches on Google are health related – we’ve all heard of Doctor Google,” said Mediktor CEO and Co-Founder, Cristian Pascual. “This leads to many problems as most of us tend to overestimate the resources we need because we always think that our headache is brain cancer, for example. People then make bad decisions related to what to do. We guide them to the right level of care so that they take the best next step. This is critically important when emergency departments worldwide are saturated,” he continued.

Available in fifteen languages, Mediktor uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to assess symptoms. Its massive medical database, relating symptoms with diseases, contains 849 diseases, 7,824 possible questions, 31,123 relations between questions and diseases, and 21,641 logic relations between questions.

Using machine learning techniques, the technology learns from every interaction and has intuition capabilities developed by 371 million pathways analyzed, meaning that it improves every time it is used. Mediktor’s natural language recognition capabilities mean that it has almost 45,000 symptoms synonyms per language, with almost 3,400 synonyms groups. The AI engine chooses the best next question for every case.

“You start your evaluation stating your symptoms in your own language without being at all technical. This is the most natural way that people share their symptoms, for example ‘I have a fever and my belly hurts’. Mediktor starts a conversation with easy questions supported by images, it’s absolutely dynamic and on average takes around 15 questions to provide you a result. Using our massive database, we have really tried to emulate on the machine the intuition that a very experienced physician would have,” explains Pascual.

Today the company services global health insurers that are launching telemedicine platforms and want a tool to direct patients to the most suitable next service. It already does this for AXA and almost 20 other insurance companies as a first step into a telemedicine platform. In a highly regulated and change-averse sector, these big players are at the forefront of using advanced technology to ensure the best health outcomes that put the least strain on overburdened care systems.

Mediktor is also now operating in several hospitals with projects focused on triage in emergency departments. The company has already been involved in six clinical trials and is now embedding its tool in one hospital to run what is being termed a ‘non-stop’ clinical trial.

For Pascual Mediktor is already unlocking superior outcomes and improvements for healthcare providers and patients making it clear that symptom checking tools are no longer ‘the future’ but are happening now. “In the near future, everybody in the world will have to go through a symptom checking tool before engaging any medical professional. In Australia for example, this is likely to happen very soon because that country is the first that we are aware of that has used symptom checking on a global scale for many years. This equates to huge savings in both money and time and it’s doing a lot of good.”

With a continuing explosion in the growth of telehealth, which McKinsey estimates has increased by around 40 times from its pre-COVID baseline, Mediktor’s main target is to become the key first link to telemedicine interactions globally.

“In the medium to longer-term symptom checkers are going to be the tools that alleviate the absolute overload of emergency rooms. There’s a huge need there and doctors see the value that this technology will bring. Beyond this, we think Mediktor could be used at pharmacies with recommendations on what to ask for, understanding that there are some medications that don’t need a prescription. In many countries where there aren’t physicians or nurses in ambulances, symptom checkers could help get to the real problem,” explains García-Esquirol.

“The portfolio of value propositions is huge. We are the best symptom checking tool of its kind, we are the best virtual assistant based on artificial intelligence to drive patients to the right level of care both technically and with clinical validation. I think we have a really exciting time ahead of us because we are filling a huge gap on a global scale,” concludes Pascual.

All these factors lead to MTIP’s decision in autumn 2021 to invest in Mediktor. During the due diligence process, it became clear that the company was highly advanced and uniquely positioned in its sector with a superior solution for hospitals or health insurers in the near future, addressing both the healthcare worker shortage and faster medical responses for patients. Now MTIP is the largest institutional investor in Mediktor and couldn’t be more thrilled to accompany it on its journey in the coming years. A phenomenal new tool that started out on a summer’s day at the beach has set the stage to revolutionize medical triage forever.

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