Head of Collaborations, NHS AI Lab, part of the NHS Transformation Directorate at NHS England and Improvement
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to alleviate some of the pressures the NHS is currently facing, from long waiting lists to lack of capacity, holding the key to create a more streamlined and efficient service.
Hospitals and health centres are continually trying to maximise their resources, squeezing the greatest number of surgeries and consultations into each day. AI could help make the most of existing resources by automating tasks, triaging patients to the most appropriate services and allowing them to self-care.
AI can be trained to identify patterns and suggest optimal solutions, for example, finding the most efficient way of scheduling to maximise operations whilst complying with safety standards. AI can be used to alleviate the strain on managing and planning care across the UK.
Maximising time and resources
The gastroenterology consultants at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh manage around 30-40 referrals a day. Complexities in the decision-making mean that there is likely to be significant variation in the route that each patient takes through diagnosis and treatment.
In January 2020, Western General ran a live trial of an AI-driven triage support tool with two low-risk patient groups. The trial automated the triage of GP referrals by analysing the information from GPs and identifying patterns that could influence the best pathway for each patient.
AI can be used to alleviate the strain on managing and planning care across the UK.
By the time of its completion, the specialists were pleased to see faster triage and a reduction in the variation of decisions. Further trials aim to drive down patient waiting times and improve joint working between GPs and consultants. In this example, as with all health and care solutions, the technology is used to enhance existing systems. Clinicians reviewed each decision in the trial, keeping a human always in the loop.
Harnessing the power of AI
Using AI to improve the efficiency of health and care organisations can have a hugely positive impact on the frontline. It is the NHS AI Lab’s mission to showcase the potential of AI as well as ensuring a robust regulatory system is in place. The Lab also aims to demonstrate that AI is trustworthy and provide the public and clinicians the confidence to use the technology.