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Is there a doctor bot in the house?


Buoy Health has launched a digital symptom-checker designed to simulate a conversation with a real doctor, a bid to augment the range of medical websites people increasingly log on to when they’re not feeling well.

Developed at the Harvard Innovation Laboratory and aided by artificial intelligence , the technology draws on a pool of about 30,000 potential questions that aim to pinpoint diseases, ranging from the common cold to more serious diagnoses.

CEO Dr. Andrew Le, a Harvard Medical School student, believes the free tool, now available online and in app stores, can ease the uncertainty, even fear, that people feel when they try to diagnose themselves online.

After answering a series of about 25 questions posed on their screens, users are given three possible diagnoses, where and how each diagnosis would be treated, and what their next steps should be. Sometimes, the site suggests to just take it easy. With serious conditions or medical emergencies, Buoy serves as a conduit to health care providers and hospitals by suggesting nearby facilities for treatment.

“Buoy helps you from the moment you’re sick, understanding your symptoms and starting your cure off on the right foot,” Le said. “You put in your symptoms and it starts to ask you questions, and the questions are actually being chosen in real-time.”


Sample questions include: “What symptom is bothering you the most?” “What is the nature of your abdominal pain?” or “Have you been near prairie dogs?” which can carry infectious diseases.

Founded in 2014, Buoy currently has nine full-time employees and has raised $3 million from angel investors.

“We are just scratching the surface of what Buoy is able to do,” Le said. Since the site began operating in stealth mode in 2016, it has amassed 5,000 users.

Le said the company is working on a partnership with Steward Health Care where Steward facilities will be suggested by the program.


Shelby Grebbin can be reached at shelby.grebbin@globe.com.