Life-saving AI that detects heart disease and cancer to be rolled out to NHS hospitals this year
In a fairly minor way, AI has been slowly embedding itself into the NHS and British healthcare for a good while now. Now, groundbreaking AI developed by researchers at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, is to be rolled out to NHS hospitals for free across the country this summer.
The AI system, called Ultromics, is able to detect heart disease and lung cancer and is predicted to save the NHS billions of pounds thanks to its ability to effectively conduct an early diagnosis that otherwise would go unchecked. But why put your life in the hands of a robot? Well for one, out of the 60,000 scans carried out every year, 12,000 of these patients are misdiagnosed, with a fifth of patients ending up suffering from heart attacks or having to undergo surgery after missed diagnoses. Misdiagnoses costs the NHS £600 million every year.
Currently, cardiologists use heart scans to look for irregularities in patients’ heart beats. With the system, the AI is able to pick up on details in the scans which doctors aren’t physically able to see. It is then able to alert the cardiologist if it thinks that the patient is at risk of having a heart attack.
Ultromics was trialled in six cardiology units, with the preliminary results suggesting that the system is indeed more accurate than hospital consultants. The system was fed scans of 1,000 patients who had heart problems and then trained to identify the ones which were flagged positive for heart disease.
The second AI system on course for implementation in NHS hospitals is able to search for clumps of nodules and give detailed information as to whether these nodules will go onto become cancerous. The system can not only identify lung cancer quicker than doctors, but can also rule out the benign cases too.
“There is about £2.2 billion spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50%,” Sir John Bell, the government’s healthcare tsar, told the BBC. “AI may be the thing that saves the NHS.”
We’ve been seen AI crop up in the field of healthcare in the UK as of late. Though up until today’s announcement, this has been mainly restricted to app-based and mobile artificial intelligence.
Last year, the NHS trialled an AI-based chat app in North London which was able to advise patients on what to do based on their symptoms. In fact, it was probably too successful, as patients eventually figured out a way to game the system and get quicker GP appointments. Then there’s the app developed in partnership between the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and Google’s DeepMind which alerts clinicians of patients who might have acute kidney injury.
Further afield, researchers at the University of Alberta were able to use AI to spot signs of schizophrenia from just looking at brain scans. Loop this in with the team at Japan who developed AI able to identify cancer from colonoscopies, and you’re left accepting that for all our misgivings about the expansion of AI, right now it seems like it could answer a hell of a lot of Earth’s problems.