Telehealth offers the convenience of remote consultations with healthcare professionals, which aids patients who live far from their physician’s office or who may have trouble traveling. It’s also become even more essential during the COVID-19 pandemic as a replacement for in-office visits to reduce crowded waiting rooms and allow more options for patients.
However, not seeing a doctor face-to-face brings its own challenges, such as an increased likelihood of missing a symptom of an illness which can lead to a misdiagnosis, or finding ways to perform tests, such as a blood pressure check, remotely.
That’s why University of Central Florida researchers are working on a new U.S. National Science Foundation-funded project to improve patient outcomes in telehealth medicine by using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare training and diagnostic reasoning, so signs and symptoms are not missed during remote doctor visits.
Artificial intelligence could help, for example, doctors remember to check for signs that might be hard to see in a telehealth setting, such as a way a person walks or holds themselves.
For the study, the researchers will look at how to best implement AI and new technologies into telehealth by observing doctor and patient communication in telehealth settings. This includes tracking physicians’ and patients’ biophysical responses such as eye movement, heart rate, and verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as recording the accuracy of physician diagnoses and any disruptions in the diagnostic reasoning process.
The researchers will also work with physicians, psychologists, engineers, and industry leaders in artificial intelligence to make recommendations on what is possible in telehealth and what could be on the horizon, such as ways to remotely perform tests, such as blood pressure checks and more using AI-based immersive virtual environments.
The ultimate goal is to use evidence collected from the project to provide recommendations for improving diagnostic reasoning in telehealth and offer ways immersive virtual technologies could improve the process.
“As technology advances in healthcare, it can facilitate ease of use, reduced travel time and more,” says Roger Azevedo, the project’s principal investigator and a professor in UCF’s School of Modeling Simulation and Training. “But there’s also new problems that arise, including the potential for medical errors.”
“We want to use AI to enhance the patient experience, so they get the care they need, and improve the doctor’s experience by facilitating diagnostic reasoning,” he says.
The project’s co-principal investigators are Varadraj Gurupur, an associate professor in UCF’s School of Global Health Management and Informatics; Mark Neider, a professor in and the associate chair of UCF’s Department of Psychology; Mindy Shoss, an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Psychology; and Dario Torre, a professor of medicine and director of Programs Assessment in UCF’s College of Medicine.
The project is scheduled to begin in January 2022.
Azevedo received his doctorate in educational psychology from McGill University and his postdoctoral training in cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. He received his master’s in educational technology and bachelor’s in psychology from Concordia University. Azevedo is the co-lead of UCF’s Learning Sciences Cluster and the director of the Laboratory for the Study of Metacognition and Advanced Learning Technologies. He joined UCF in 2018.