Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is quickly advancing to improve the speed of diagnosis, predict the success of drug discoveries and provide virtual assistance to patients.1 The benefits of this technology (including convenience, improved patient treatment, cost savings and reduction in human errors) makes AI incredibly desirable to over-stretched and budget-restricted healthcare systems, especially the NHS.
For example, due to the current staffing crisis, the NHS outsources the diagnosing of x-rays and images to several companies that employ hundreds of people to examine the images, returning their diagnosis after 1 week or more.1 In 2017, the NHS spent a total of £116 million on outsourced radiologists to help support them with staffing shortages – and this is just in radiology!2
behold.AI is being trialed across several NHS hospitals. The software uses deep learning technology that combines artificial neural network architectures with massive computing power,3 allowing it to recognize abnormalities by comparing the scans to healthy lungs. Rather than hundreds, behold.AI employs four data scientists and diagnoses thousands of images every minute providing doctors with a much quicker diagnosis, 1 potentially saving the NHS millions and freeing up time for overworked staff.
Another benefit of AI is its ability to spot signs of disease that humans cannot identify by using algorithms capable of flagging abnormalities and predicting patterns. Using a simple blood test, Freenome uses its AI genomic platform to measure cell-free biomarkers and circulating proteins that indicate the presence, type and stage of cancer. These very first signs of cancer were previously unavailable. Freenome can also indicate the type of tumors present so medical practitioners can make better treatment selections at an early stage.4 Using Freenome technology, screening for the presence of cancer and determining the best treatment may soon become part of standard checkups.
Chat bots and online GP practices are now becoming popular ways to access medical help without the need to book ahead and or even leave your bed! Platforms such as Babylon health and Zava connect people to online doctors who can examine, diagnose and prescribe remotely, relieving stress from clinics and maximise patient convenience.
There is a strong appetite for these technologies and with hundreds of companies working on AI algorithms to improve medical practice we can expect to see AI dominating and transforming medical practice over the next few years.