East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust is using artificial intelligence (AI) software to help check chest x-rays – making provider Qure.ai one of the first AI companies to be procured through the NHS Shared Business Service (SBS) Framework Agreement.

The qXR software can help spot potential issues on x-rays almost immediately, alerting doctors to help reduce any potential delays in starting treatments. The AI-powered software can detect issues, including cancer, collapsed lungs and tuberculosis, without the need to wait for a radiologist to review the x-ray imaging.

Findings generated by the software are reviewed by emergency department doctors before treatment is decided. In addition, senior radiologists regularly check reports to ensure accuracy. Critical cases will be highlighted by Qure.ai‘s qXR, allowing doctors to target those patients who need the most urgent treatment.

Dr Neelan Das, consultant interventional radiologist, and AI lead for East Kent Hospitals, said: “We are very excited about this new imaging innovation which we think will make a real difference to the departments.

The technology allows for faster interpretation and targeted reporting of the images so that any abnormalities can be flagged immediately for the doctor to review. Our initial testing has shown that it is at least as sensitive as a senior radiologist and when it is rolled out fully across our emergency departments it could analyse thousands of x-rays every month.”

The technology is the latest AI project procured by the trust, which is already using other software to monitor patients’ eye health, detect signs of disease or stroke and analyse potential lung cancers on CT scans.

Dr Das believes the technology has real potential to improve patient care and outcomes but cautions that “ongoing performance monitoring of all new AI technologies introduced into the NHS is key to success and adoption”.

Qure.ai’s qXR software was procured via the NHS SBS ‘Provision of AI, Imaging & Radiotherapy Equipment, Associated Products and Diagnostic Imaging’ Framework Agreement.

Darren Stephens, SVP and commercial head – UK and Europe for Qure.ai, said: “This is a significant milestone for Qure.ai’s solution to be procured though the NHS SBS Framework Agreement.

“We are excited to partner with East Kent Hospitals with the aim of powering the efficiency of radiology reporting of chest X-rays with very high accuracy.

“A layer of AI-enabled chest X-ray triaging can prompt precise identification of critical cases, resulting in optimised resources and enhanced patient experiences.”

East Kent Hospitals is part of the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s AI Centre consortium – a group of 16 organisations working on ways to use AI technology to benefit NHS patients.