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China debuts world's first AI hospital where robot doctors will be ‘able to treat 3,000 patients daily’

China debuts world's first AI hospital where robot doctors will be ‘able to treat 3,000 patients daily’

This AI hospital might be operational soon, although it faces some challenges.

Chinese researchers are forging ahead into the unknown where artificial intelligence (AI) and healthcare are concerned, unveiling an impressive new all-AI hospital that isn't quite what it seems.

It would be tempting to read their statements and assume that the team from China is working on a brick-and-mortar hospital full of robotic AI helpers to get through thousands of patients a day, but the truth is a little more complicated.

In fact, 'Agent Hospital', as it's being called, is an entirely virtual environment at the moment, one that probably won't be accessible to real human patients for some time.

Instead, it can be thought of as a sort of training programme for AI doctors, and a way for researchers to see how AI bots would work in a hospital environment with virtual patients, responsibilities and more.

All the doctors, nurses and patients in Agent Hospital are driven by large language models (LLM) to let them autonomously interact.

pipat wongsawang / Getty
pipat wongsawang / Getty

This means that, in theory, an AI patient could describe a problem to their AI doctor and the latter could respond with a diagnosis.

Obviously, though, we're in the very early stages here - after all, LLMs aren't exactly full AI, instead relying on text prediction. That means that an AI doctor can't yet look at your throat and diagnose tonsillitis without a much more complicated set of interactions between AI programs and datasets.

Still, there are loads of other ways that Agent Hospital might be useful. Research team leader of the Agent Hospital Liu Yang told the Global Times that the programme could also be used to help trainee doctors by letting them test their diagnostic work on AI patients.

MixAll Studio / Getty
MixAll Studio / Getty

Despite the fact that it's currently all-AI, though, Liu Yang apparently told the Global Times that Agent Hospital is aiming to become, in some way, operational in late 2024.

What isn't clear is what this would exactly mean - whether real patients will be filtered through it virtually somehow, or simply that the aforementioned training programme would be put into practice.

Liu Yang apparently acknowledged that AI healthcare is a really early field at this stage, though, and that every effort is going to have to be made to ensure that it sticks to safety guidelines, so it might be a little optimistic to believe that Agent Hospital will be actually treating real people anytime soon.

That's even before you remember that it has no physical location and is just an entirely virtual environment for now. So, we're still in the early days, here!

Featured Image Credit: Kilito Chan / gorodenkoff / Getty