How the NHS is using AI to improve patient care

Advancements in technology have changed the landscape of healthcare, and among the most impactful is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is a game-changer for the NHS, transforming the delivery of healthcare services and improving the patient experience. Our Divisional Sales Manager for Healthcare, Ben Lopez explores some of the NHS’s most beneficial AI projects and how these are supporting it to meet future goals.

AI in diagnostics

One of the most promising use cases of AI in healthcare is in diagnostics. AI-assisted imaging and tools can help radiologists interpret X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs more accurately and quickly and highlight any abnormalities they may have missed. In fact, recent projects have aimed to match and even surpass the accuracy of radiologists.

By picking up on subtle differences that the unaided human eye is unable to notice, tools like this could help to:

  • Streamline the diagnosis process
  • Reduce patient waiting times
  • Provide more accurate diagnoses

AI-based pathology systems can analyse tissue samples on microscopic levels and pick up on even the slightest detail that a pathologist may not have seen initially. This has the potential to enhance the speed and accuracy of diagnosis for cancer patients by detecting cancers at an earlier stage of development than would be possible with human analysis alone.

Preventive care and personalised medicine with AI

By analysing a patient’s health and lifestyle information, AI tools can predict what illnesses they may be at risk of and proactively prevent them. This allows medical professionals to tailor their advice to suit the specific needs of individuals and offer personalised guidance on how to avoid possible health issues.

AI in the NHS use cases

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

The use of AI and Intelligent Automation within the NHS has the potential to revolutionise patient care and employee productivity. By leveraging technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), mundane and repetitive tasks can be automated, allowing healthcare workers to focus on more complex and meaningful responsibilities. The impact of this technology is exemplified by a successful collaboration between the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) and Microsoft.

Working together, they implemented a Virtual Workforce powered by RPA and AI to automate the laborious process of patient referrals. Through real-time monitoring and data extraction, virtual workers significantly reduced the time required for each referral, from 15-20 minutes down to just five minutes. This automation not only saved hundreds of hours for medical secretaries but also improved job satisfaction and allowed staff to dedicate more time to patient care. The ESNEFT estimates saving £220,000 in associated costs within the first three months alone.

The successful integration of RPA and AI highlights the transformative potential within the NHS. By emphasising that automation is not meant to replace workers but rather to enhance their productivity, the partnership between ESNEFT and Microsoft showcases the value of AI in driving large-scale transformation in healthcare. Leveraging Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services, this RPA AI solution demonstrates the tangible benefits of integrating intelligent automation into healthcare processes, ultimately improving patient care and overall operational efficiency.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Microsoft’s AI tools helped the Trust to develop a machine learning algorithm that predicts the likelihood of a patient developing sepsis. The tool uses patient data, such as vital signs and blood test results to identify those at risk of developing the life-threatening condition. Early results show that the algorithm has the potential to reduce the number of sepsis cases and improve patient outcomes.

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Microsoft’s Cognitive Services supported The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust to create an AI chatbot, ‘Ask Oli’ to provide patients with quick and reliable medical advice. Ask Oli uses natural language processing to answer patients’ queries quickly with relevant and accurate information. The chatbot has reduced the workload on staff and allowed patients to receive timely advice and support.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

The Trust used Microsoft’s Power BI to develop a dashboard that visualises patient data in real-time. The dashboard enables clinicians to identify trends and patterns in patient data, leading to earlier diagnoses and improved treatment plans. The project has improved patient safety and reduced costs by identifying ineffectiveness in the existing system.

The Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Microsoft’s HoloLens technology has created an augmented reality system for surgical teams at The Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. The system overlays patient data onto the surgical field, providing surgeons with real-time information and live feedback during complicated procedures. The use of the HoloLens has resulted in improved outcomes and faster recovery times for patients.

The future of AI in healthcare

These examples are just a few of the ways in which AI is already being used and is benefitting the NHS, and there are many more use cases to come. The combination of AI and machine learning is already being explored to help predict and respond to outbreaks of disease, and in the monitoring and tracking of patient vital signs.

AI can also offer patients greater convenience by automating administrative tasks and easing the strain on resources with a more tailored service. Digital health services can be streamlined and customised for patient needs, meaning individuals can carry out self-assessments, receive advice on services, and access relevant health information easily.

While the potential benefits and applications of AI in the NHS are vast, there is work to do before the technology can be fully integrated into our healthcare system in a way that offers maximum benefit to both healthcare workers and their patients. However, examples of AI projects already in place showcase its possibilities, including speed, accuracy, and cost efficiency. If the NHS is to meet its goals, it’s almost certain that AI and machine learning will play a major role, and early results are proving very promising.

Using AI to improve patient outcomes in your healthcare organisation

Talk to our healthcare technology specialists today to find out how innovative healthcare technology will enable your medical staff to:

  • Identify problems earlier
  • Improve the decision-making process
  • Provide patients with faster and more accurate medical advice and treatment
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Ben Lopez
Ben Lopez

Ben has been working in public sector IT for nearly 20 years, building out teams to help invigorate change through digital transformation. He has a genuine and unwavering goal to enhance patient care for the benefit of generations to come.

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