Artificial Intelligence, Hospitals, Payers, Health Tech

NHS invests $300M in the development of new AI capabilities

The National AI lab is meant to support clinicians in efforts to estimate future needs of healthcare resources, identify the best sites of care for patients and help automate routine and administrative tasks to increase system efficiency.

Less than a month since the election of new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the NHS England has announced a new funding initiative to put more than $300 million (£250M) toward the launch of a new national artificial intelligence lab meant to boost the use of the technology in patient care.

The AI lab is meant to support clinicians in efforts to estimate future needs of healthcare resources, identify the best sites of care for patients and help automate routine and administrative tasks to increase system efficiency.

The lab is being housed under NHSx, a division of the health system charged with helping to promote and accelerate its digital transformation.

In an announcement, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said one priority for the initiative is investing in genomic testing that can allow for more preventive care and fewer downstream costs.

The government’s plan includes giving up to five million people free personalized health reports informed by genomic testing.

“I want our AI lab to generate cutting edge technology to diagnosis illnesses like sepsis, stroke and heart attacks before symptoms appear,” Hancock said.

Other potential efforts by the AI lab could include building automated systems to help predict post-operative risk for patients, improving the safety and fairness of AI algorithms and helping to upskill NHS workers to effectively use the emerging technology.

“Today’s funding is not just about the future of care though. It will also boost the frontline by automating admin tasks and freeing up staff to care for patients,” Johnson said in a statement.

“My task is to ensure the NHS has the funding it needs to make a real difference to the lives of staff and patients. Transforming care through artificial intelligence is a perfect illustration of that.”

The health system has already rolled out early experiments in the use of AI, however results have been mixed.

One of the system’s heralded partnerships with triage and symptom checking tool Babylon Health has come under scrutiny because of the issue of incorrect diagnosis and a collaboration with Google DeepMind for the early detection of kidney disease has been criticized for failing to protect patient data.

The NHS has put strategic efforts toward understanding how the health system will evolve with new emerging technologies like genomics, AI and robotics. In fact, the government has stated a priority to put the UK at the forefront of the AI and data revolution, specifically with regard to early diagnosis, innovation, prevention and treatment.

Earlier this year, the organization released a report it commissioned from digital health expert Dr. Eric Topol meant to envision how these new technologies could shape medical practice and how the NHS could best prepare to enable that future.

Topol’s report posits a more individualized, patient-centered system driven by a population empowered by personal genomic and health information.

Among the recommendations laid out in the report were increased training for staffers and clinicians around issues like data validity and accuracy, regulations to protect patient privacy and provide safety guarantees for AI and using patient input to develop AI-based technologies that fit with their needs and preferences.

Picture: Darren Staples, Getty Images