University Hospital Monklands in Scotland has become the first hospital in the UK, and one of the first in the world, to pilot artificial intelligence (AI) technology which has the potential to improve early diagnosis of cervical cancer.

The pilot uses a digital cytology system from Hologic – the Genius Digital Diagnostics System. The system creates digital images of cervical smear slides from samples that have tested positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). An advanced AI algorithm reviews slides and provides the screener with an image gallery of the most diagnostically relevant cells, to help them more rapidly identify and accurately diagnose abnormalities.

Early results from the pilot are promising: University Hospital Monklands has increased its capacity by around 25% in the slide assessment as well as improved its analysis turnaround times.

Allan Wilson, consultant biomedical scientist at NHS Lanarkshire is, leading the pilot.

He said: “Looking for abnormal cells is like trying to find a needle in a haystack because in some cases there are only around 50 abnormal cervical cells in a sample that may contain 15,000 normal cells. This pilot with Hologic has shown how digital cytology can revolutionise our analysis process in our cervical screening programme.”

He continued: “We are now undertaking a retrospective study, using the digital cytology system to test its performance against previous known results. This will then provide the clinical data to make a recommendation on the use of digital cytology in the cervical screening programme in Scotland. Through AI and digital diagnostics, we have the potential to improve outcomes for women not only in Scotland, but around the world.”

Tim Simpson, general manager for Hologic UK & Ireland, added: “Digital cytology has a key role to play in ensuring pre-cancerous cells are picked up early and treated so fewer women go on to develop cervical cancer. Our goal is to help create a world where no woman dies from cervical cancer.”

University Hospital Monklands has previously trialled Alcidion’s Patientrack electronic observations and alerting system before the system was deployed across the whole of NHS Lanarkshire.