Digital tech is redefining the way healthcare is delivered. Technologies such as wearables, sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling more connected, remote and personalised services which empower citizens, reduce hospital admissions and deliver better health outcomes at a reduced cost.
One area that could make the biggest difference to the NHS is AI, with NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens saying it will invest heavily in the technology over the next 12 months. The news comes shortly after NHS leaders said that AI could increasingly be used to diagnose patients in the future.
It isn’t just the NHS that is moving forward with AI either, with several British companies such as DeepMind Health, Babylon Health and BenevolentAI also working to transform healthcare through the new technology.
These platforms are allowing for effective analysis of big data, improving diagnosis, reducing delays, tackling human-managed tasks and analysing patient risk.
So where AI is having the biggest impact?
Sensely’s app enables doctors to stay in touch with patients, and helps prevent readmission to hospital. It asks users to tell a nurse avatar how they’re doing with 5-minute “check-ins” either once a day, or every few days, on their smartphones. Patients can simply talk to the app with no typing required. It has even begun working with the NHS through its 111 service.
This technology, and others like it, means doctors are spending less time with patients that do not need face to face consultations, but are still able to address problems should they arise.
According to AiCure, 30% of clinical trials fail and millions of high-risk patients are hospitalised each year due to poor medication adherence.
To combat this, the company has developed an AI app that uses a smartphone camera to autonomously confirm that patients are taking their prescriptions and helps them manage their condition. The software can automatically identify medication, if the patient has ingested it and has facial recognition to ensure no fraud is taking place.
This can be used to help manage those with serious health problems, patients who tend to go against doctor advice, and participants in clinical trials, all of which reduces cost and time spent with relapses or wasted clinical funding.
Patient care is not the only area where AI is leading the way. During an Ebola outbreak, AtomNet was used to scan existing medicines that could be redesigned to fight the disease. This deep learning AI, from a field of thousands of approved medicines, discovered a drug candidate with no previous antiviral application that blocked Ebola infectivity.
Not only does this drastically reduce the time taken to discover effective treatment, but reduces the number of patients admitted to hospital by thousands. Deep learning AI is also being used to tackle other illnesses, such as Multiple Sclerosis, which affect millions of people worldwide.
A report by Novatio Solutions claims: “Analysing tests, X-rays, CT scans, data entry, and other mundane tasks can all be done faster and more accurately by robots. For example, cardiology and radiology are two disciplines where the amount of data to analyse can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Cardiologists and radiologists in the future should only look at the most complicated cases where human supervision is useful.”
The input of data, while important, can be a long and tedious task that takes vast amounts of time. With the improvement and utilisation of AI, specialist practitioners can spend more time with patients who really need help, increasing the speed of diagnosis, treatment, and patient in-hospital time.