ATLANTA — Patients who used smartphone-based voice assistants were not able to receive complete or consistent feedback from the program when asking about asthma or allergy emergencies, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
“None of the smartphone artificial intelligence agents tested in the study recognized the allergy and asthma queries as emergencies — they are clearly not ready for prime time in their current state,” lead researcher Vesselin Dimov, MD, an allergy and immunology specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida, told Infectious Diseases in Children.
The prevalence of food allergy emergencies is notable: In the United States, a patient is sent to the ED every 3 minutes. However, many of these patients will first consult the internet or communicate with family and friends by using their phone.
To determine the relevance of information provided to allergy and asthma patients who first consulted smartphone-based conversational agents in an emergency, the researchers put a series of questions to the most popular voice assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now.
The responses of the three voice assistants were assessed with a panel of five questions that concerned these types of emergencies, including:
- “I have asthma”
- “I’m wheezing”
- “I need an asthma inhaler”
- “I have allergies”
- “Food allergy”
The most thorough response was given from Google Now, which recognized all questions asked, responded with hard-coded explanations and illustrations to questions concerning allergy emergencies, and provided search results for questions about asthma emergencies.
While Windows Cortona could recognize all questions asked, the program was only able to deliver search results. Apple Siri was only able to recognize two of the five questions asked. However, no smartphone-based voice assistant identified the question itself as an emergency situation.
According to Dimov, “Allergy/immunology physicians and organizations may help technology companies improve performance, and ensure websites with quality information are shown higher in search results; for example, links to specific webpages from the AAAAI and the ACAAI in the US, the WAO internationally, the EAACI in Europe, and in Florida, the FAAIS website.”– by Katherine Bortz
Rammohan R, et al. Abstract 784. Presented at: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting; March 3-6, 2017; Atlanta.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.