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How could AI help the NHS?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a £250m boost for a new National Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Artificial Intelligence could help carry out some tasks for the NHS (Peter Byrne/PA)
Artificial Intelligence could help carry out some tasks for the NHS (Peter Byrne/PA)

By Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

The Government is committing £250 million towards the NHS’s digital transformation plans, aimed at improving healthcare through the development of artificial intelligence.

But what kind of improvements can patients expect from the power of AI?

By definition, artificial intelligence is the use of advanced computer systems to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence.

This does not mean that robots will be taking over physical procedures such as surgery, but AI could work with data to carry out tasks such as identifying patients most at risk of certain diseases or figuring out the best way to organise patients to free up beds without burdening stretched NHS staff.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the extra funding will “boost the front line by automating admin tasks and freeing up staff to care for patients”.

Among the improvements that the NHS’ new AI Lab could deliver are:

– Faster cancer screening test results, including mammograms, brain scans, eye scans and heart monitoring, helping to save millions of lives a year.

– Better estimates for future needs of beds, drugs, devices, or operations.

– The ability to identify people most at risk of diseases such as heart disease or dementia, thereby diagnosing problems earlier.

– Working out which patients can access treatment easily in the community instead of at hospital.

– Free up clinicians’ time by automating some routine admin tasks, as well as upskilling NHS staff so they can use AI systems for day-to-day tasks.

– Building systems to detect people at risk of post-operative complications, infections or requiring a follow-up from clinicians.

AI is already being developed by some NHS trusts, such as Imperial College London to predict survival rates for ovarian cancer, and in University College Hospital to predict missed appointments and allow staff to follow up with targeted phone calls, saving between £2 and £3 per appointment.

PA

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