Healthcare And Artifical Intelligence Concept

Greater public trust in AI would help NHS detect cancers early, experts say

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The public has been urged to place greater trust in AI that can predict healthcare problems in advance such as heart disease and lung cancer.

A collection of studies has been released by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) identifying 10 “promising AI interventions” that would help to address specific healthcare challenges.

These include early detection of heart disease and lung cancer, predicting the progression of disease, personalising treatments to the patient, and reducing pressures on A&E departments.

Dr Jemma Kwint, NIHR senior research fellow and author of the report, said: “We all need to be able to trust AI and ensure that it does not increase inequalities in care. The high-quality studies are useful examples of the evidence we need to build trust in this advancing technology.

“Further research is needed to deepen our understanding of how these tools could work in routine clinical practice, their long-term effect on patient outcomes and their overall value for money.”

Around one in 100 adults have heart failure, and it becomes more common as we age. While it is usually diagnosed in hospital, one research project looked at a study that made use of a “smart stethoscope” that can screen for heart failure in primary care settings such as a GP’s office.

The research found that the stethoscope identified people with heart failure correctly nine out of 10 times and could help GPs prioritise referrals, improve outcomes for patients and save the NHS money.

In England, around 1,000 people a day attend A&E for a heart-related reason. An AI application was tested that used routine clinical data, along with a blood test that measures heart muscle damage. The research found that the application could determine whether people attending A&E had experienced a heart attack or not, and it could help to reduce the time spent in A&E and improve early treatment.

Two studies were focused on diagnosing lung cancer, which causes around 35,000 deaths every year.

They found that AI could help determine whether abnormal growths seen on a CT scan are cancerous. They used different types of AI, and focused on different size growths, but both predicted cancer more accurately than the standard tests currently used.

Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, said: “AI is already having a positive impact across the NHS, from helping to diagnose patients more quickly to saving staff valuable time, and I am focusing on making sure we can harness the best technological tools to deliver the highest quality care for patients.

“It is encouraging to see the results of these studies, which show that with the help of AI, doctors could soon be able to detect heart disease more quickly, predict the progression of diseases and personalise cancer treatments. This will help to improve care and cut waiting lists – one of the government’s top five priorities.”

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