Can AI help to keep the NHS alive?

24, January, 2018


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A report from think tank Reform has illustrated how artificial intelligence can help to keep the NHS alive in the face of tough conditions.

The UK’s health service continues to be underfunded despite an increasing number of warnings from doctors and staff. Patients lined up in corridors are now a sight often seen in hospitals up and down the country.

Reform highlights 16 areas where AI can be used to improve efficiency in the NHS. Without adequate funding in sight, the recommendations aim to ensure the health service remains available to as many people as possible.

Use of patient data in healthcare is often plagued with controversy due to how sensitive the information could be. For example, the UK’s Information Commission (ICO) ruled the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust did not do enough to protect the privacy of patients when it shared data with Google-owned AI specialists DeepMind for its research.

Cases like this damage advancements in the field. Reform says that, despite the hype around AI in healthcare, examples of it being implemented and deployed in the NHS are sparse.

One area where AI could be utilised, according to the report, is to predict individuals or groups who are particularly at risk of ailments. This will help to ensure treatment or prevention methods are targeted more effectively.

All data must be collected in the right format and accessible for advancing research, however it must also be secured adequately and ensure privacy. The report highlights the need for the NHS to become more digital to facilitate this as the service is still too reliant on paper files.

Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee chair Norman Lamb said:

“We are on the brink of a major transformation in the way we diagnose, treat, and even prevent ill health. Whether it is wearable devices, AI surgical robots, or AI algorithms that can detect certain conditions with unprecedented speed and accuracy, these advances have the potential to propel the health and social care system into the 21st century – improving care both in the hospital and at home, and making much more efficient use of resources.

There is still more to do for AI to win the hearts of all healthcare professionals, and these are just some of the issues that will occupy policymakers in the years ahead.

Infrastructure for collecting, sharing and accessing data need to be improved. Resolving the ethical questions surrounding AI in healthcare settings will be crucial, including setting the right regulatory framework.”

The full report is available for download here.

Learn more about how AI is affecting the healthcare industry at the AI Expo Global, a thought leadership conference and exhibition in April 2018 (18-19th).

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