New AI “Cancer Fighting Chatbot” Offers Patients and Families 24/7 Support: “Empathetic Approach”
Cancer patients looking for quick answers or support between appointments can now turn to “Dave”, a artificial intelligence chatbot trained to discuss anything related to oncology.
Launched earlier this month by Belong.Life, a New York-based health technology company, Dave is described as the world’s first conversational AI oncology mentor. for cancer patients.
“Dave has helped patients understand their situation and provided them with valuable information to engage in informed discussions with their doctors,” said Irad Deutsch, co-founder and CTO of Belong, in an interview with Fox News Digital.
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Some of the most common questions include potential treatments for diagnoses and what to expect in terms of side effects, he said.
Dave is a Large Language Model (LLM) that is similar to ChatGPT. Yet, instead of being educated on more general data, he only focuses on cancer-related topics.
Inspired by personal experiences
“Belong’s founders, along with many members of our company, have witnessed first-hand the impact of cancer on our families,” Deutsch said.
“We understand the immense stress that occurs when questions arise, even at 2 a.m., and there is no one available to provide answers.”
The team’s goal in creating Dave, he said, was to reduce patient stress levels and reduce their anxiety by providing comprehensive, real-time answers around the clock.
The chatbot was named after biblical King David, Deutsch said, who used his wisdom to triumph over Goliath.
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“In our quest to help patients defeat their own (cancer) Goliath, we believe Dave can empower them with the wisdom to make smart, informed decisions,” he said.
Although an AI model, Dave is designed to communicate with empathy, Deutsch noted.
“This empathetic approach is particularly crucial for cancer patients, who are in a very sensitive phase of their lives,” he said.
Where Dave gets his data
Dave was trained on “billions of data points” from seven years of patient-doctor interactions.
These interactions were aggregated from the Beating Cancer Together app from Belong, a social and professional network for cancer patients, according to Deutsch.
“The engine works by harnessing the power of two LLMs, one from OpenAI and the other from open source engine, which synergistically complement each other,” Deutsch said.
Its sources include patient-physician discussions, patient-patient discussions, documents, and patient-reported results.
Additionally, Dave regularly pulls the latest data from reputable internet sources, giving him in-depth knowledge of cancer treatment guidelines, Deutsch said.
Dave in action
To date, more than 10,000 people with cancer have tested the AI cancer chatbot, including Mark Werner, owner of a construction company the Atlanta area. He was diagnosed in 2018 with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer.
Werner has been using Belong’s Beating Cancer Together app since 2021, connecting with other patients and getting support while navigating his own cancer journey.
“[Dave] reduces patient stress levels [and] reduces the time physicians have to spend educating patients.”
After battling cancer for the past five years, Werner said he knows his disease pretty well. Still, he often uses Dave as a “sounding board” to check his point of view on a particular subject.
“I also read many questions from other people and found Dave’s answers to be perfect,” he said.
Dave is not designed to offer specific advice, Werner noted. Instead, the chatbot will suggest the options available for each patient.
When it comes to comforting a patient or providing general information about treatments or side effects, Dave can be a great resource, Werner said.
“Where Dave shines is being able to quickly and efficiently inform you of the latest technological advances in oncology,” he said.
Because Dave is strictly focused on cancer, the chatbot won’t try to help with other conditions.
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“He’ll sympathize with you about a particular disease, but if it’s not cancer related, Dave will tell you he’s not qualified to answer the question and refer you in another direction to get your response,” Werner explained.
Deutsch shared another case in which a woman’s husband was battling advanced-stage cancer.
She was one of the first to use Dave, seeking various ways to support her husband during these difficult times.
“A week ago, she reached out to Dave for the last time, sharing her husband’s passing while expressing her gratitude for Dave’s support,” Deutsch said.
“Although he knows that Dave is artificial intelligenceshe always felt compelled to express her gratitude for Dave’s support during these difficult times.”
Designed to complement doctors, not replace them
Although Deutsch considers Dave to be an excellent source of support and information, he recognizes that nothing can replace the expertise, ideas and confidence of qualified and experienced people. health professionals offer.
“The ability to have both Dave and real human doctors available on one platform is what makes the Belong app so appealing to patients,” Deutsch said.
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Dave’s main advantage, he said, is that he can provide patients with immediate and informative answers, whereas doctors generally need more response time.
Deutsch estimates that Dave can handle up to 80% of the requests that patients typically make to doctors or other medical or healthcare personnel.
“This ability not only alleviates patient stress levels, but also reduces the time physicians need to spend on patient education,” he said.
In cases where patients need more specific information related to their personal health, Dave directs them to real doctors on the platform or encourages them to see their own doctors for additional answers and support.
Designed to minimize risk
While Dave relies on answers from real doctors, Deutsch acknowledged that even real doctors can make mistakes.
“In addition, the machine may misinterpret patient questions or encounter situations where the information provided by the patients themselves is insufficient,” he said.
“In cancer care, treatment decisions always involve human oncologists.”
To mitigate these potential risks, the team validated Dave’s answers by consulting real doctors.
They found that 91% of responses were very accurate, 9% were partially correct, and none were partially inaccurate or completely incorrect, Deutsch said.
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Patients can also submit feedback on the quality of Dave’s responses.
Importantly, Deutsch said patients are told that — “despite Dave’s human language” — they are engaging with an AI system and not a human.
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“Each post from Dave includes a prominent visual disclaimer that this is an AI-generated answer, which may not always be accurate, and that patients should always consult with their doctor before making any decisions. “, did he declare.
“In cancer care, treatment decisions always involve human oncologists, ensuring a human element in the process.”