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The advances of AI in healthcare

In April, NHSX, the unit whose remit is to deliver the digital transformation of the health service, will begin running a new artificial intelligence (AI) Lab.

With the Government investing £250 million into the project, the Lab will consider how to use AI for the benefit of patients – whether this be the deployment of existing AI methods, the development of new technologies or the testing of their safety.

Amongst other things, the initiative will aim to deliver earlier diagnoses of cancer. It is estimated that in excess of 50,000 extra patients could see their cancer being detected at an early stage, thus boosting survival rates. More specifically, a study has shown that AI is quicker in identifying brain tumour tissue than a pathologist.

This would have a positive knock-on effect in other areas, such as enabling money to be saved (that otherwise would have been spent on further treatment) and reducing the workload of staff (at a time when there is a crisis in NHS workforce numbers).

AI also has the potential to substantially increase the pace of research to find medical breakthroughs by analysing data more quickly than would be possible for a human.

Moreover, Genomics England have set up a programme for AI to be used in developing personalised treatments (including for cancer) via the anonymised genomic data of five million volunteers.

The utilisation of AI and technology in healthcare has the backing of Matt Hancock. In a speech last month to the Healthtech Alliance, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said: “I completely get why some people think now is not the time to be talking genomics, automation and AI. But I respectfully disagree…The point is that sometimes the cutting edge can help us solve those bread-and-butter problems and move us to a new generation of solutions.”

He also announced that a £140 million AI Award will be established, with an initial emphasis that will include screening and diagnosis, to accelerate the use of new AI tools in the NHS.

The Brain Tumour Charity welcomes the work to be conducted at the Lab and recognises the possible impact it could have on improving outcomes for brain tumour patients.

To this end, we are currently funding research on how AI could help enhance brain tumour diagnosis.