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February 2, 2017updated 01 Feb 2017 3:44pm

Under-pressure NHS turns to artificial intelligence for smart patient care

One in three NHS trusts are using AI for patient services.

By Ellie Burns

Business and government are on a mission to deploy and succeed with AI in healthcare – IBM Watson has been drafted in the fight against cancer, while the NHS is trialling an AI app and working with the likes of Google’s Deepmind to improve patient care.

It is easy to see why the UK’s NHS would be rushing to adopt AI, with the over-burdened, costly and complex infrastructure of the NHS a perfect candidate in which to reap the efficiency and productivity benefits of AI.

Although archaic processes still reign supreme in the NHS, new data does suggest that AI is starting to infiltrate and make an impact in trusts around the UK.

According to a Freedom of Information request filed by Nuance, one in three NHS trusts are using AI for patient services. Although 93% of trusts were still found to depend on traditional word processing for patient records, an encouraging 43% were investing in AI to enable patients to ‘self-help’ when accessing services.

Those trusts using AI were found to be harnessing AI technology such as virtual assistants, speech recognition technology and chat-bots to ease the pressure on healthcare workers across their organisations. 60% of responding trusts said that at least some staff have access to the use of speech recognition technologies to build diagnostic reports and update patient records.

AI in NHS

Nuance issued a FoI request to 45 NHS Trusts, with 30 responding.

Encouragingly, the FoI request also found that nearly half (47%) of trusts now allow staff to use mobile devices to develop patient records, saving those working in the community valuable travel time and expense.

“Deploying technology such as AI to enable patients to self-help is an important step forward to providing the best possible care – ensuring employees can manage the more complex ailments directly with patients, while giving easy access to information for everyone,” said Frederik Brabant, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer at Nuance.

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“With staff across the NHS already under enormous pressure to deliver first-class services – typically exacerbated in the winter with disease-levels peaking – access to supporting technology to ease this pressure will be key.”

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