As if they haven’t got enough to cope with thousands of NHS staff are to be trained to use robotics and artificial intelligence as the health service sets out to embrace cutting-edge innovation and technology.
NHS robotics and AI is increasingly used in our hospitals and new developments in genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence and robotics have already revolutionised some NHS treatments such as eye surgery and knee replacements. Robot doctors could be on the way.
Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on US academic Eric Topol to carry out a review into how the NHS can pioneer new treatments and technologies to transform healthcare.
Dr Topol, an expert in cardiology, genetics and digital medicine, has previously examined the use of wireless and smartphone technology in healthcare, and led a multi-million dollar US research programme focusing on harnessing technology and data to provide more precise, tailored patient treatment.
Supported by international experts, his independent review will examine artificial intelligence – including robotics – genomics and digital medicine.
It will look at training existing staff, as well as considering how this will impact on the skills required from future healthcare professionals.
Dr Topol will commence the review with a visit to London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital, which has revolutionised the way professionals carry out eye tests so that artificial intelligence can detect common eye diseases much earlier.
Their work is looking at how machine learning technology can help analyse eye scans, giving eye care professionals a better and faster understanding of eye disease.
The practical side of NHS robotics and AI
A key case study linked to the review involves new technology to help patients self-manage diabetes occurring during pregnancy.
Currently patients need to measure glucose levels up to six times per day, record results in a paper diary and visit hospital every two to four weeks.
But a new smartphone app with a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose meter has been developed to offer real-time management of this type of diabetes and reduce the need for clinical visits by patients.
Staff are trained to interpret data on the app and use it to message patients directly so they can self-manage the condition.
The review team will submit a final report by the end of the year.
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