A new report by think tank Reform says that artificial intelligence (AI) could help the NHS become more efficient while delivering better outcomes for patients.
For example, wearables can monitor information related to health and wellbeing, such as the number of steps taken or heart rate. AI can analyse this information to help keep people well and support changes in behaviour.
AI could also enable clinicians to identify individuals with health conditions who are more likely to develop certain complications and then target treatment more effectively towards them.
Additionally, AI algorithms with superior diagnostic accuracy could reduce variation in quality of decision making whilst offering personalised care universally, the report suggests.
Other ways that AI could enhance the functioning of the NHS include automating tasks, triaging patients to the most appropriate services, and allowing them to self-care.
However, the report warns that public trust and confidence is vital for the successful development of AI. The NHS will also need to “get data right”, which means collecting the right type of data in the right format, increasing its quality and securely allowing access to it.
Increasing the quality of the data collected is crucially important, as the accuracy and fairness of AI algorithms depend on the data they are being fed.
Welcoming the research, Ben Wanless, consultant physiotherapist and AHP digital and innovation lead at St George’s University Hospital NHS Trust, said that clinicians need training and time to adopt and fully exploit AI, and called for the NHS to invest in digital equipment and in supporting staff to use it.
“Just because something is digital does not mean it is better,” he said. “It is only better if it improves efficiency and leads to better patient care. If you cover those things, then clinicians are more likely to engage.”