Emerging Technologies

AI in Healthcare Shows Promise, But Is This the Beginning of a Transformation?

Startup company discussing AI in healthcare

There is no denying the hype around AI in healthcare and other major industries. In a report published by MMC Ventures, researchers found that 40% of the over 2,800 European companies classed as AI startups were not using the technology in a way that was material to their business.

Although healthcare is no exception, stakeholders from all walks of life are turning to data-driven technologies with the hopes that help will be provided in solving some of the most pressing challenges facing systems around the world, from burnout to workforce shortages.

Accelerating the Spread of AI in Healthcare

In England, the National Health Services (NHS) revealed plans to create an AI lab that would be run by a unit for digital, data and technology, called NHSX, and the Accelerated Access Collaborative—an organisation supporting innovation in healthcare in the U.K.—supported by a £250 million investment. NHSX brings together the teams responsible for the digital transformation of the health service, which were spread across NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care.

The initiative, according to a report by NHSX, is expected to accelerate the spread and adoption of “proven AI technologies”, create environments that allow testing of the safety and efficacy of these new products, and provide support in digitally upskilling the workforce.

Based on an analysis done by the authors, the most common use of the technology is looking at diagnoses and screenings, with over 130 products targeting 70 conditions. Furthermore, results from a State of the Nation survey and a horizon scanning exercise by the National Institute for Health Research, indicate that AI in healthcare is early in the adoption cycle.

Although progress is being made, findings show that only a third of AI developers in the U.K. think that their product will be ready for at-scale implementation in 12 months’ time.

Taking a Comprehensive Approach

For the NHS to benefit from the development, implementation and adoption of these technologies, it is clear that there is a need to ensure that its IT infrastructure is up to scratch. Helen Stokes-Lampard, FRCGP, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told delegates at a conference that it took her 17 minutes to log onto the computer at her surgery in the morning, according to a report from the Telegraph.

While fixing the basics needs to be a priority, so does preparing the workforce to be able to use the technologies being deployed, which are impacting their day-to-day work, and ensuring that the digital leadership reflects the diversity of NHS staff. It’s often said that digital transformation is about much more than just the technology in use—this saying seems to be more important than ever as we work toward adopting AI in healthcare.

Looking to the Future

It’s clear that NHSX is aware of the challenges ahead. Its tasks will include opening up a “strong dialogue” between government, academia and industry, enabling “legal, fair, ethical and safe data sharing” to support the development of AI technologies, creating the skills needed for future jobs, building international partnerships–and there is no sugarcoating around how tough that is expected to be in practice.

Its impact will now remain to be seen.

The opinions expressed here those of the author and author’s alone, who is not affiliated with the report.

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