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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center recently tested an artificial intelligence program that’s able to examine, identify and classify stool samples, and the verdict is in: The AI knows its shit.
The program is the brainchild of Diet Health, a San Francisco-based startup that makes personalized diet recommendations for people with irritable bowel syndrome. The company—a graduate of Cedars-Sinai’s accelerator program-has an AI-based app that, with the snap of a smartphone camera, is said to paint a better picture of stool irregularity than patients are. After being put through trials that saw IBS patients use the app for two weeks, Cedars-Sinai doctors concluded that Deita’s technology was better at assessing stool than patients’ own evaluations were.
Patients usually describe their secretion using the Bristol stool scale, which classifies stool in seven groups. But this presents two problems: Firstly, fecal matter, like most things in nature, is far more nuanced and complex in size, shape and consistency than a seven-level scale could accommodate. Number two, those who’ve been burned by IBS before might not know what’s a normal or abnormal, uh, number two. So unless every wrinkle in your brain is trained to process stool samples, you probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with Dieta’s AI, which uses numerous other classifications in addition to the Bristol stool scale to give doctors a better picture.
Diet Health is part of a growing wave of medical diagnostics startups that use AI to help identify ailments and conditions. Seed Health, a Venice-based, Goop-approved probiotics company, acquired AI startup Auggi Technologies last year, picking up its massive stool database in the process. Auggi is part of a growing cadre of startups that use machine learning technology—informed by giant troves of images, videos and other data—to help doctors find warning signs in everything from dental x-rays to the gastrointestinal tract. While these technologies promise to speed up the process of diagnosing and treating patients earlier, there remain concerns among some clinicians and regulators about their efficacy.
But in a health care system strained by high demand and too little supply, these medical developments could prove a godsend for patients and providers alike. — Keerthi Vedantam