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NHSX reports advancements in artificial intelligence

Latest study showcases the work in artificial intelligence that is ongoing in the NHS as part of its Long-Term Plan

NHSX has published its first State of the nation report, which covers the breadth of development ongoing in artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.

The report is the result of the investigations carried out by the health service digital unit into how AI is being developed in the NHS and the challenges developers face, as well as the greatest opportunities and risks associated with the technology.

According to the NHSX, the report Artificial intelligence: how to get it right is intended to explain to people why the government thinks AI is a worthwhile investment and how it will improve healthcare provision.

As people get improved access to their own data, they will engage more in their own health, according to the report. Personalised medicine and predictive prevention will accelerate, it added,  through greater access to clinical, genomic, phenotypic, behavioural and environmental datasets.

“This will spur the continual development of novel breakthrough technologies and help the UK maintain and develop its position as a global leader in ethical AI,” the report added.

Patients will engage more in their own health, according to the report, with personalised medicine and predictive prevention accelerating through greater access to clinical, genomic, phenotypic, behavioural and environmental datasets. The idea is to get AI to “spot patterns and opportunities that humans can’t”.

Research areas covered that have been included in the report are what AI is and where it is being used, how to govern AI and protect patient safety, as well as how to support the workforce and encourage adoption.

In terms of what is being developed, the report noted that this analysis reveals that diagnosis and screening are the most common uses of AI, with 132 different AI products identified being designed for diagnosis or screening purposes covering 70 different conditions.

Governance of AI is investigated in detail in the report, which proposes a new framework that emphasises ethical and legal considerations, as well as areas such as the explainability of an algorithm, the evidence generation for efficacy of fixed algorithms, patient safety and what to consider in commercial strategies.

Data that feeds AI systems is discussed in the report, which details the collaborative approach the government is taking by bringing partners together to set the rules for information governance. The study also covers “what good looks like” in terms of encouraging adoption, and details how the impact of implementations of AI systems can be monitored to ensure lasting, positive changes.

The topic of training people in the development, deployment and use of AI is another area of the report.

Given that health data is not only generated in England and the AI platforms the data runs in are also international, the report details the work that has been done around building a global AI ecosystem and the NHSX’s partnerships in that regard.

The report concludes with the role of NHS AI Lab, noting the creation of the £250m hub in August 2019 is “essential” to making the most of the opportunities identified by NHSX, while enabling risk mitigation.

Tasks to be carried out by the lab to “get AI right” include the inspection of algorithms being developed, deployed and used, as well as creating environments to test the safety and efficacy of technologies.

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