In an exclusive column for Digital Health News, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay says the UK government’s investments in artificial intelligence (AI) can help show the value of new technologies while accelerating their use in the NHS.
Artificial intelligence is transforming the way we deliver healthcare and ground-breaking technology has the potential to improve diagnosis and treatment for a range of conditions – whether it’s allowing the NHS to identify people at risk of heart attacks early on, improving recovery for stroke patients or diagnosing cancers earlier, improving a patient’s chance of recovery.
I want to harness the full potential of these technologies to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS, improve early diagnosis, reduce waiting times and free up clinician time.
Through the AI in Health and Care Awards we are providing funding to the most promising technologies and building a strong evidence base to speed up their use in the NHS and allow health and care staff to be confident about using them.
In total, £123 million has now been awarded to 86 projects and previous winners include the CaRi-Heart tool which has already been deployed at a number of hospitals. Used to scan arteries, it predicts the possibility of heart attacks in patients.
Brainomix’s e-Stroke system has also benefited and has been adopted by nine areas in England, allowing thousands of people with suspected symptoms of a stroke to benefit from quicker treatment. With the use of Brainomix, patients could improve their chances of recovery with no or slight disability – defined as achieving functional independence – from 16% to 48%.
We have announced nine further organisations that will receive a share of nearly £16 million to turbocharge the development of their AI.
The successful technologies will help to solve clinical and operational challenges faced across the NHS to improve patient outcomes, revolutionise healthcare and automate some admin tasks to give staff the gift of time.
The latest winners are developing cutting-edge technology with the potential to bring down NHS waiting lists, deliver more accurate diagnoses and provide quicker access to treatment.
For example, undiagnosed rare diseases are estimated to have cost our health service more than £3.4 billion over a 10-year period. They also pose fatal risks to patients. Mendelian uses an algorithm to identify warning signs in patient records before recommending the best course of treatment.
As it stands, the average diagnosis waiting time for a rare disease is five years in the UK – something this technology, backed by a £1.43 million investment through the Awards – could help reduce.
Cancer is another huge health challenge we face, as one in two people will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lifetime. Medical device company Medtronic has received £2.45 million in funding to process colonoscopy images and detect signs of colon cancer.
Start-up Ibex, meanwhile, is using an AI-driven algorithm to run checks for breast cancer – analysing images of tissue extracts and helping pathologists determine the presence of cancer. Ibex has won an investment of £1.54 million as part of the Awards.
Cutting waiting lists is one of this government’s top five priorities, and ground-breaking technology like that supported through the AI awards can play a vital part in this. We will continue to invest in AI and the latest technology as I believe it has a key role to play in achieving our priority to slash waiting lists, and ensuring the NHS can continue to be there for all of us when we need it.