Artificial intelligence: how might it be used in healthcare? – SPICe Spotlight

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Scotland’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy, launched in 2020, notes that Scotland has the potential to grow to be a “go-to location” for the AI and healthcare market. Right this moment, there are a number of AI pilots happening throughout NHS Scotland, and a small variety of AI instruments are already used in scientific follow. 

SPICe has just lately revealed a briefing on Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare in Scotland. This weblog summarises a number of the key themes from that briefing, with a give attention to present and potential near-future makes use of of AI in NHS Scotland. That is the second weblog in a collection of publications on AI from SPICe. You’ll be able to learn the primary half here.

What’s AI?

Scotland’s AI Technique defines AI as:  

Applied sciences used to permit computer systems to carry out duties that may in any other case require human intelligence, resembling visible notion, speech recognition, and language translation. 

AI relies on algorithms, that are units of directions used to carry out duties, resembling evaluation or calculations, often on computer systems. Lately, AI has superior considerably by machine studying. In machine learning, the AI system is first given a considerable amount of coaching information (e.g. photos of x-ray scans with and with out tumours). The AI makes use of statistical strategies to deduce guidelines from the coaching information, after which makes use of these guidelines to carry out duties (e.g. classifying scans to benign or worrying). This technique permits AI methods to efficiently carry out duties in areas the place reaching the identical outcomes by conventional programming would be very tough, resembling picture and speech recognition.  

For a extra detailed rationalization of how AI works, see this latest blog from SPICe. 

How is AI used in NHS Scotland?

On the time of writing, a small variety of AI instruments are already used in scientific follow in NHS Scotland. This part outlines most of those however could not be a complete record. 

BoneXpert is a device that makes use of AI to automatically determine a child’s bone age from radiographs of a hand. This helps clinicians spot potential progress issues and different medical circumstances. The device is used extensively in the UK, together with at NHS Better Glasgow and Clyde, and the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids in Edinburgh. 

Ethos is a system that makes use of AI to routinely goal and adapt the supply of radiotherapy in most cancers therapy. When a affected person has most cancers, the tumour and the encompassing tissue sometimes change because the therapy and/or the illness progress. Historically, this has required a whole lot of time from clinicians to constantly modify therapy plans. The Ethos system makes use of AI to allow clinicians to make these changes more quickly. Ethos is at present used on the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre

A few of the latest medical imaging units utilise AI as an in-built function. For instance, the CT (computerised tomography) scanner on the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank uses AI to achieve clearer images in less time than was beforehand the case.   

Speech recognition software program has additionally improved considerably with latest developments in machine studying. Healthcare professionals throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK now use such software program to hurry up repetitive duties referring to scientific notes and letters. 

What else might AI be used for quickly?

Along with the small variety of AI instruments already being used, many AI purposes are at present being examined in NHS Scotland. These embody purposes in medical imaging, predicting and preventing illness, and automation of administrative tasks. This part highlights one present instance from every of those areas. 

Medical imaging

NHS Grampian has just lately tested an AI device known as MIA, created by Kheiron Medical Technologies, for studying mammographs. The hope is that utilizing AI in breast screening might make the method extra correct, lower ready instances and scale back workload. Presently, the usual follow is that at the least two professionals learn every scan. Sooner or later, AI might probably exchange one of many two human readers.  

In accordance with early findings reported by the BBC, MIA noticed indicators of most cancers missed by human docs in 11 ladies through the trial. Knowledge from the trial is at present being analysed by researchers on the College of Aberdeen, with remaining outcomes anticipated later this yr. The examine obtained funding from NHS England’s AI in Health and Care Award

Predicting and stopping sickness

NHS Better Glasgow and Clyde is at present working a project which goals to seek out out if an AI device known as Dynamic-AI can enhance the care of individuals with COPD (persistent obstructive pulmonary illness). This sickness impacts round 120,000 folks in Scotland and is the second commonest cause for emergency hospital admissions. The concept is that AI might predict flare-ups, allowing early interventions to stop hospital admissions.  

The Dynamic-AI examine is run along with the College of Glasgow and the trade companions Lenus Health Ltd and Storm ID, with funding from the AI in Well being and Care Award. It should proceed till January 2025. 

Administrative duties

In Might 2024, the Scottish Authorities announced {that a} new kind of working theatre scheduling software program will be rolled out nationally to deal with ready instances. This comes after a profitable trial in three NHS Boards and an assessment by the Scottish Well being Applied sciences Group. 

The software program, developed by Infix, makes use of machine studying to optimise theatre scheduling. Throughout trials, it improved working room effectivity by as much as 25%, with no extra medical employees or rooms required. 

Who drives AI growth in Scotland?

The event of AI instruments for healthcare usually entails tutorial, trade and NHS Scotland companions. To advertise collaborations like this, NHS Scotland has three Regional Innovation Hubs, masking all 14 territorial NHS Boards. The hubs are funded by the Chief Scientist Office. 

Many nationwide NHS Boards additionally play a task in AI innovation. For instance, NHS Golden Jubilee, which incorporates the Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD), is concerned in a number of AI pilots. The CfSD additionally runs the Accelerated National Innovation Adoption (ANIA) Pathway, which goals to fast-track the adoption of latest, confirmed applied sciences throughout NHS Scotland. 

Well being Enchancment Scotland (HIS) runs the Scottish Health Technologies Group (SHTG), which assesses and makes suggestions on new applied sciences, together with however not restricted to AI. SHTG’s evaluations are based mostly on multidisciplinary health technology assessment methodology (HTA). Typically the ANIA Pathway refers applied sciences for the SHTG to guage. 


Regardless of promising developments, the usage of AI in healthcare additionally raises some challenges. These embody points referring to safety, bias, explainability, data protection and legal liability. As lots of the promising outcomes referring to AI haven’t but been extensively replicated in real-life scientific settings, there are additionally challenges relating to local adoption.  

These points are mentioned in extra element in the latest SPICe Briefing on AI and Healthcare in Scotland. The third a part of this weblog collection, to be revealed subsequent week, may even discover them. 

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