The NHS is adopting artificial intelligence into its operations to drive efficiency, lower costs and improve patient care, but with an impending surplus of data, how can healthcare ensure it utilises this data and integrates the highest levels of accountability?
A new code of conduct for AI and other data-driven advanced technologies that will reassure patients and clinicians that technology used by the NHS is safe, effective and maintains privacy has been published by the government.
It sets out a framework for companies manufacturing the advanced equipment and technology.
It also aims to help healthcare providers choose safe, effective and secure technology to improve the services they provide.
Inward investment to the UK’s artificial intelligence sector has increased by around 17% over the past year – more than the whole of Europe combined, according to the government.
This new code of conduct comes after a post-graduate artificial intelligence (AI) qualification to boost manufacturing and business productivity and create high skilled jobs was announced.
This training will be essential if the UK is to be a leader in AI, which the higher investment figure could indicate, and create world-leading systems that could transform industries like healthcare.
AI technology is already being deployed across the NHS to improve the early diagnosis of heart disease and lung cancer, and assist research by better matching patients to clinical trials.
For example, Moorfields eye hospital partnered with DeepMind under a research agreement to find early signs of age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy from one million anonymous eye scans.
Three examples of advanced technology in the healthcare sector:
1) A platform to improve existing minimally invasive techniques in surgery by integrating robotics, micro-instrumentation, endoscope design, and data science to enable new levels of care has been created by surgical robotics company Auris Health.
Specialising in the treatment of lung conditions, Auris’ Monarch Platform is able to accurately access small and hard-to-reach lung nodules for early diagnosis and treatment targeting.
2) UK-based Nexus Intelligent Engineering (Nexus IE) has partnered with globally leading medical company, Linde Healthcare, to fast track the development of a smart hub that could make healthcare systems more efficient.
The hub has been specifically designed to wirelessly transfer data on the location, content and status of multiple oxygen cylinders within its vicinity and to store the data in the cloud.
3) The pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and the charity Cancer Research have launched a new research centre aimed at speeding up the creation of cancer drugs.
The Functional Genomics Centre located in Cambridge will focus on genetic screening, cancer modelling and big data processing.
IoT bandage could save NHS £300m a year
More recently, researchers from the University of Nottingham have secured a grant of £900k to develop a smart wound dressing embedded with optical fibre sensors to assess real-time wound healing.
The new dressing could have a significant impact on patient care and healthcare costs for wound management, which stand at £4.5-£5.1bn a year – more than 4% of the NHS budget.
According to the researchers, the optical fibre sensors will remotely monitor multiple biomarkers associated with wound management such as temperature, humidity and pH, providing a more complete picture of the healing process.
At present, regular wound redressing is the only way to visually assess healing rates, however this exposure can encourage infection, disrupt progress and creates a huge economic burden on NHS resources.
The proposed sensors will be produced in very thin (~100 um diameter), lightweight, flexible, low-cost optical fibres.
The dressing will be connected to a standalone, reusable opto-electronic unit to constantly monitor the wound’s status. The unit will transmit and receive light to and from the sensors; wirelessly relaying information to both the patient and clinicians.
Although the dressing will cost marginally more than the average dressing, the higher initial cost will be offset by fewer dressing changes or clinical visits and reduced healing time.
A 10% reduction in costs associated with visits and appointments would provide £300m annual savings to the NHS alone, according to the researchers.