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China opens ‘AI Hospital’

by Pieter Werner

Tsinghua University researchers have unveiled China’s first AI hospital, designed to revolutionize healthcare by leveraging artificial intelligence. The AI hospital, named “Agent Hospital,” consists of virtual doctors, nurses, and patients, all powered by large language model (LLM)-based intelligent agents. These AI doctors can simulate the entire diagnostic and treatment process, providing a high volume of patient care at a rapid pace. For example, AI doctors in this simulated environment can treat 10,000 patients in just a few days, a task that would take human doctors at least two years.

The practical benefits of this innovation include enhanced training opportunities for medical students, who can practice diagnosing and treating a variety of AI-generated patients without the risk of harming real patients. This simulation-based approach aims to cultivate highly skilled doctors by allowing them to make and refine treatment decisions in a risk-free setting.

The Agent Hospital includes consultation and examination rooms staffed by AI agents. The configuration includes 14 AI doctors responsible for diagnosing diseases and formulating treatment plans, and four nursing agents providing daily support. According to Liu Yang, the research team leader and executive dean of the Institute for AI Industry Research at Tsinghua University, this approach is set to transform healthcare by enabling AI doctors to provide high-quality, affordable, and convenient healthcare services as their capabilities evolve.

Liu also noted that the AI hospital town could simulate and predict various medical scenarios, including the spread and control of infectious diseases, enhancing preparedness and response strategies. Despite these promising prospects, the implementation of AI diagnosis and treatment faces significant challenges. These include strict adherence to medical regulations, thorough validation of technological maturity, and the development of mechanisms for AI-human collaboration to ensure safety and efficacy.

Dr. Dong Jiahong, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, emphasized that while AI can enhance healthcare precision and efficiency, it cannot replace the human elements of medicine, such as personalized care and compassion. He highlighted that medicine is a science of love and warmth, and AI remains a tool that can aid but not replace human doctors in providing personalized patient care. Legal responsibilities during treatment will continue to be borne by human doctors, ensuring that AI’s role remains supportive rather than substitutive.

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