Maastricht UMC+ virtual nurse to diagnose, prescribe medicine for heart patients

Molly, Maastricht UMC's virtual nurse
Molly, Maastricht UMC's virtual nursePhoto: Maastricht UMC+

Maastricht UMC+ is working on an AI system, named Molly, that can independently diagnose and prescribe medication to heart patients. A less-advanced version of Molly is already being tested, De Limburger reports.

The less advanced Molly is a virtual nurse that works through an app and gives patients with heart failure instructions on how to measure their blood pressure, for example. It answers questions and warns patients if they need to call the doctor. Molly 2.0 will be much better and smarter. 

Maastricht UMC+ and a number of international partners received 4.5 million euros in European funding to further develop the system. The developers believe that Molly will eventually be able to make independent decisions, which can reduce the number of hospital visits and therefore high healthcare costs. "She has to work so accurately that no one in the hospital has to supervise her, which is currently still the case", head researcher and professor of cardiology Hans-Peter Brunner-La Rocca said to the newspaper.

Molly will initially only focus on patients with heart failure. The current Molly already knows a lot about this condition. Molly 2.0 will also be able to recognize other symptoms that may not be immediately connected to heart failure, like shortness of breath and swollen feet. "These symptoms may be signs that blood circulation of the patient is not good and he or she is retaining fluid", the professor explained. Patients with heart failure also tend to have other diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure or lung disease. Molly will eventually be able to recognize new diseases, know which medication must not be taken with another medication, and independently request a blood test.

Legally and ethically there is still a lot of questions regarding the use artificial intelligence in healthcare. "We will have to prove extensively in a large trial that Molly is safe", the professor acknowledged. "In the case of doubt it will always say: contact your specialist." Molly 2.0 will likely only be tested in two years time.