AI to give doctors more time with patients says NHS

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Soon the complaints about the short time doctors spend with their patients may be a thing of the past.

Tesco knows more about its customers than the NHS does about its patients, the health secretary has said.

A separate panel reporting on AI and robotics said that healthcare professionals should be educated in health data provenance, curation, integration and governance.

That's the conclusion of a new report issued yesterday by eminent USA cardiologist, geneticist and digital medicine guru Eric Topol (below), who has produced recommendations for how the NHS and healthcare professionals need to adapt to make the most of the technology.

The authors conclude: "Our review of the evidence leads us to suggest that these technologies will not replace healthcare professionals, but will enhance them ... giving them more time to care for patients".

"I would like to thank Dr. Topol for his crucial report, which will act as a blueprint as we implement our Tech Vision and Long Term Plan for the NHS, and bring about a brighter future and better NHS for everyone".

Technology should lead to faster, more accurate diagnoses and empower individuals to be more informed about their care, according to a major independent report released yesterday.

For years, patients have already been able to speak with NHS chatbots online to identify common health concerns and receive advice but in the future, mental health patients will be able to hold conversations with triage bots via smart speakers, which will be able to identify warning signs of suicidal behavior.

Other uses for virtual reality include reduction in symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders, phobias etc. AI could save time in interpreting scans such as mammograms, eye scans and pathology slides, and also improve the accuracy of diagnoses.

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Robotic surgery could be expanded, while they could also automate repetitive tasks such as dispensing pharmaceuticals.

Gene editing could also soon be an essential tool in treating genetic diseases says the report.

The report, which looked into the pending "technological revolution" in healthcare, also noted the importance of digitalizing healthcare systems and called for fresh education for staff, in addition to predicting that 90% of NHS jobs would require digital skills within 20 years.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, commented that "clearly there is a lot of work ahead for employers", adding that "the deployment of technology will of course require significant resource", which needed to be government funded.

AI's ability to mimic human behaviours could be seen as "manipulative or deceptive" so patients must always be made aware if they are communicating with man or machine, it says.

Dr Topol said technology will allow patients to have an active role in their care, keeping track of their own health and measuring vitals such as blood pressure to help doctors.

A vast amount of the recommendations from the advisory boards relate to safeguarding patient data as well as being accessible for clinicians, and giving staff the required training in order for the workforce to be equipped to deal with new technologies.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Technology must be there to enhance and support clinicians. It has the potential to make working lives easier for dedicated NHS staff and free them up to use their medical expertise and do what they do best: care for patients".

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