Between 10% to 15% of the world’s population suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. IBS can be a painful, uncomfortable, and unpredictable condition. The symptoms are often contradictory, and IBS’s cause remains a mystery. One common factor is that IBS patients always have changes in bowel habits and stool characteristics. Their poop looks different from healthy poop. The Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS) is the standard tool for assessing stool form. The BSFS uses images and descriptions of seven stool appearance softness levels ranging from very hard tiny lumps to watery diarrhea. Doctors have patients use the BSFS to self-report their stool appearance.

Dieta Health, a Los Angeles-based gastroenterology digital health company, developed an artificial intelligence-driven smartphone app to objectively and accurately classify stool images. Earlier this month Dieta announced a peer-reviewed clinical study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The study found Dieta’s AI-powered app is better at classifying stool images than patients themselves and comparable to expert gastroenterologists.

A team at the Cedars-Sinai Medically Associated Science Technology Program (MAST Program) conducted the study. Subjects in the study used the Dieta app to capture images of all of their stools before, during, and after taking an experimental medication in 2021. The patients classified their own stools using the BSFS. Two expert gastroenterologists manually classified more than 200 images of stools. The AI-driven app also classified the same 200+ images.

According to the published study, The AI app’s accuracy in classifying stool images was comparable to the two expert physicians. The Dieta AI app scored higher sensitivity (true positive) and specificity (true negative) than the patients’ own classifications. The app also correlated higher with the patients’ symptom severity than the patients’ self reporting.

Dieta Health is proceeding with additional partnerships testing. Techstars, Cedars-Sinai, and UnitedHealthcare are current investors in the company. This study had a relatively small number of subjects. The fact that all of the subjects were taking experimental drugs added another variable to the mix, plus the principals in the study are invested in the outcomes. But those study limitations, while factual, don’t diminish its importance. An app-based stool imagery assessment tool that patients can use remotely has significant promise as additional objective input for characterizing the dietary output of patients with gastroenterological complaints.