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“On the cusp of something really exciting”: How artificial intelligence can transform healthcare

Using artificial intelligence to analyse large datasets could shape the future of the NHS patient care, according to leading experts in healthcare technology.

Delegates at the Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Conference heard how clinicians can use algorithms to quickly analyse vast amount of patient data to predict health outcomes.

“If we bring together all the data that we use, then soon we could be able predict with a reasonable certainty whether someone is going to have diabetes later in life, for example,” said Daniel Hallen, head of digital technology for NHS in England (North).

“It’s rapidly developing as we start to develop new technologies, things like Fitbits and those sort of things that are able to do an awful lot more. What would have required a super computer to do in the past, can now be done in a handheld device. We are on the cusp of something really exciting.”

 Mr Hallen believes AI and data analysis will have a vital role to play in making a more efficient and sustainable NHS.

“You look at data in its old traditional forms which would mean looking manually at spreadsheets,” he said.

“But this is crunching millions of pieces of data and using algorithms to let a computer do a lot of that calculation for you. At its heart it’s a glorified spreadsheet, it doesn’t make decisions for you but it presents the data in a way that allows you to make informed decisions.”

The patient is key

While the potential of AI and its applications may seem limitless, speakers also stressed the importance of keeping the use of technology grounded in the everyday experiences of patients.

“If you say to the average patient in a hospital or a clinic that you are going to use AI, they won’t know what that means,” said Dr Indra Joshi, digital health and AI clinical lead for NHS England.

“This is all brilliant but how do we put that information into clinical workflows so it is valuable? If you think about AI it is a massive thing that is hitting us and we need to take it in bite-sized chunks.

“We need to look at information governance, data quality and reliability and how do we actually commission and pay for these services.”

Adapting to change

Artificial intelligence is just one form of disruptive technology that is changing the way the NHS approaches patient care. The Healthcare Technology Conference on July 4 will explore how these innovations can help NHS trusts adapt to growing demand and become more efficient.

“July 5 this year will be the 70th birthday of the NHS. This is an organisation that is one of the biggest employers in the country. There is no single point when the NHS has stood still, it can’t stand still,” said Mr Hallen.

“The NHS adapts to technology very well, it updates and moves along with it.

“We’re getting the ability to have smaller and smaller interventions, we are getting heart care devices that simply download information overnight and send it into a system in the hospital that monitors it automatically. We’re cutting down the amount of times that patients have to visit.

“That’s the next step of the NHS strategy, it’s about creating the future. We’ve spent the last 70 years in broad terms treating sick people, which is absolutely right and we need to keep doing that. However we now need to shift towards keeping people well.”

Delegate tickets for the Healthcare Technology Conference 2018. Register your interest – here.

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