AI in healthcare: diagnostics to GP appointments revolution

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By Creative Media News

  • AI can improve diagnostics and reduce NHS wait times
  • Sunak supports AI in healthcare for precise mammograms
  • AI’s role in healthcare faces privacy and safety concerns

It is the revolutionary technology that both proponents and critics assert will transform the world, potentially destroying us all or upending every industry. 

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised AI to assist “millions” of British citizens in his remarks before a global summit on artificial intelligence in South Korea. 

He discussed a recent NHS trial in which thousands of British women will undergo mammogram evaluations by an AI “doctor.”

The results are anticipated to result in more precise diagnoses and expedite waiting times by allowing the overworked staff to allocate more time to other duties. 

Nevertheless, this is merely one method by which advocates assert that technology will transform healthcare.   

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Mr. Sunak’s flagship announcement demonstrated the most straightforward method of integrating AI into healthcare. 

The Prime Minister, in conjunction with his South Korean counterpart, praised the NHS and Korean firm Lunit for their partnership in utilizing AI to enhance the speed and precision of breast cancer diagnosis.

In a joint article published in The i, they wrote, “We all know how crucial early detection is—so just imagine what improvements here could mean for millions of women and their families.”

In the trial, a screening clinic administered by the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will employ AI to analyze mammograms, which are breast scans taken to detect signs of breast cancer.

Typically, this analysis is conducted by two radiologists examining a scan independently to ensure no cancerous signals are overlooked. 

However, the AI will replace one of these physicians during the trial.

According to the organizers, The system is expected to analyze 2,575 images, and the results will be compared when the trial concludes next year. 

It is not the first time the technology has been praised as a diagnostics instrument that will revolutionize the field. 

The capacity of AI to detect minute, subtle changes in tissue, which are nearly impossible to detect with the human eye, is currently being employed in research and clinical trials to identify a diverse array of diseases. 

The majority of these pertain to cancers and involve using AI to analyse or assist in the analysis of scans such as X-rays, MRIs, CTs, or blood testing.

The technology has been tested on lung and bowel malignancies, as well as forms of disease that are exceedingly difficult to detect, such as pancreatic cancer.

Previous research has demonstrated that AI can diagnose conditions with accuracy at least as high as that of radiologists in 94% of cases, utilizing millions of old patient scans.

The same principles that enable AI to identify subtle indicators of disease can also enhance cancer care.

Radiotherapy, a cancer treatment that employs intense blasts of targeted radiation to eliminate tumors, can result in adverse effects such as fatigue, nausea, sore skin, and infertility, as healthy tissue is affected by the intense radiation.

However, clinicians can further refine the areas of the body that require radiotherapy by utilizing AI, which could mitigate the severity of side effects. 

Independent experts have advised caution regarding the figure, even though some AI advocates have asserted that the technology can be employed to identify conditions such as autism with “100 percent accuracy.”

Increase the efficiency of NHS personnel who are in short supply of time.

It is a well-known fact that NHS personnel are under significant time constraints, particularly from the standpoint of patients.

Some of how this is reflected in reality include the consistently missed objectives for timely cancer and mental health treatment, record-breaking backlogs, and agonizing waits in A&E. 

However, AI has the potential to offer a partial solution.

Although it is impossible for a medic to be in two locations simultaneously, many of the same methods that AI could use to enhance diagnostic capabilities could also save staff time.

In the case of Mr. Sunak’s breast cancer example, using AI to supplant one of two radiologists who interpret scans effectively doubles the number of staff members capable of conducting such analyses, thereby increasing the number of staff members who can be observed. 

Alternatively, using AI to identify radiotherapy targets could expedite a process that was previously performed manually by physicians, thereby increasing productivity. 

Naturally, the effectiveness of AI is a prerequisite for all of this.

NHS personnel will not be more productive if they are required to allocate additional time to rectifying algorithmic errors that they could have avoided. 

Nevertheless, patient privacy and safety concerns have arisen due to specific initiatives to utilize AI to increase productivity.

Critics characterized a government proposal as “creepy” because it advocated for using technology to monitor patients’ private medical appointments.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins announced the initiative, asserting that employing AI to generate patient notes for the physician in the background would enhance productivity by reducing the time spent on documentation. 

Nevertheless, privacy and patient safety advocates expressed “significant apprehensions” regarding the security of patients’ data.

Additionally, they cautioned that individuals may be too embarrassed to discuss medical issues candidly while being recorded, which could result in injury. 

The NHS ‘penguin’ automata, which have been the subject of much criticism

In certain NHS circles, NHS penguin-bots were relentlessly ridiculed as a government white elephant for a service currently suffering from chronic understaffing and, in some instances, crumbling infrastructure. 

The robot, affectionately referred to as ‘Milton,’ employs artificial intelligence (AI) comparable to self-driving vehicles to transport medications throughout hospitals.

The ‘helper machine’ is employed to transport and deliver prescriptions and other items throughout Milton Keynes University Hospital, alleviating the burden on human staff. 

As a result of this trial, the robots could potentially be implemented in additional NHS institutions in the future.  

However, other robots have been programmed with AI and have the potential to enter the healthcare sector.

Experts disclosed earlier this year the results of a trial utilizing “social assistance” robots in health care settings. 

These addressed patients’ inquiries, freeing time for medical professionals.

These mechanical medical assistants were also capable of engaging in casual conversation with patients, providing assessments, riddles, and even calming breathing exercises.

The 2-foot-tall Japanese nurse-bot Aeo, among other extremely high-tech robotics, has been praised as a potential solution to the NHS workforce crisis. 

Aeo is capable of monitoring patients, notifying staff of any issues, delivering blood samples, and conversing with patients, in addition to the capabilities of its more penguin-like counterparts. 

Is it possible for AI therapists to assist individuals in overcoming melancholy and eating disorders?

It is estimated that one in four British individuals will encounter a mental health issue each year. Therefore, could digital therapists serve as a viable alternative? 

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has even stated that the wait times to see an NHS mental health specialist are so long that thousands of patients are seeking assistance at A&E. 

Thousands of adolescents in West London have already been provided with the smartphone application Wysa to assist them in managing their mental illness.

The application inquires about the user’s day upon their login. 

If they are experiencing anxiety, the chatbot guides them through breathing exercises and meditation to alleviate their emotions. The language used is intended to convey empathy and support.

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The app is also being utilized in a £1 million trial for patients on the NHS mental health waiting list in North London and Milton Keynes. The trial compares the well-being of the app users to that of other patients on the waiting list who do not have access to the app.

However, the utilization of digital therapists has raised concerns among experts who are concerned that certain patients who require appropriate psychiatric treatment may turn to the applications rather than receiving the necessary assistance.

Others have cautioned that the absence of human involvement could potentially worsen mental health issues in individuals who are already vulnerable.

Last year, the National Eating Disorders Association in the United States was compelled to discontinue Tessa, a chatbot created to supplant counselors. 

It was the result of allegations made by Sharon Maxwell, a former eating disorder sufferer from San Diego, that the algorithm had advised her to weigh herself regularly and even measure her body fat with calipers as a means of coping.

In December, NHS Dorset faced criticism for publishing a list of free applications that it believed could prevent the mental health of young people from deteriorating.

The trust stated that the library, which an app review firm curates, has the potential to prevent individuals from requiring additional remedies. 

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