As winter approaches, the NHS is set to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technology to identify patients at risk of hospitalisation, enabling community healthcare teams to provide preemptive care and alleviate the strain on Accident and Emergency (A&E) services. This initiative is part of a broader introduction of technological and data-driven solutions to enhance the NHS’s response to the seasonal increase in healthcare demands.
In Somerset, four GP practices have initiated a pilot programme using an AI system designed to identify registered patients with complex medical needs who are at heightened risk of hospital admission or those who seldom contact their GP. The system facilitates proactive outreach for health discussions. Subsequently, individuals identified as high-risk will be contacted by health coaches, nurses, or GPs. These healthcare professionals are equipped to offer an array of preventive services, which include the provision of food parcels for vulnerable patients, intensification of care to specialist doctors, implementation of preventative measures to reduce the risk of falls, or connection to local volunteer organisations to combat isolation.
Innovative use of AI in Buckinghamshire involves it being linked to electronic sensors on household appliances such as kettles and refrigerators. These sensors monitor changes in patients’ eating and drinking patterns, triggering alerts to a non-clinical Onward Care team. The team can address up to 95% of issues raised by interacting with patients directly, escalating clinical matters when necessary. Patients have the option to avail themselves of these community-based, practical support measures that not only offer monitoring but also assistance with household chores, shopping, and the provision of food parcels, which has been instrumental in preventing hospital readmissions among frail patients.
Some regions in Birmingham are trialling a different approach, employing an algorithm that forecasts the top 5% of individuals at risk of potential A&E visits or hospital admissions. The team conducts wellness checks to offer social care assessments, medication reviews, or other community support initiatives to circumvent A&E admissions. Over the upcoming two years, this programme aims to prevent approximately 4,500 non-essential A&E visits, reduce overnight hospital stays by 17,000, and liberate around 23,000 GP appointments for other patients.
These innovative measures are being implemented in the context of an NHS already under significant pressure, with recent data indicating that A&E departments experienced their busiest October on record, while ambulance services reported the highest monthly demand witnessed this year. The NHS has been diligently preparing for winter, guided by the urgent and emergency care recovery plan published earlier in the year. The plan includes strategies to augment capacity and fortify resilience across the NHS, such as the establishment of care ‘traffic control’ centres to expedite patient discharges, the provision of additional ambulance hours, and the increase of available beds.
The NHS has also been expanding its globally acclaimed virtual ward programme, achieving its target of establishing 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September. These virtual wards allow patients to receive hospital-grade care in the familiar surroundings of their own homes, surrounded by family, friends, and carers.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, commended the suite of technological and data solutions being introduced: “These advances demonstrate the innovative spirit of NHS staff across the nation, who are leveraging the latest technology and AI to provide patient care and significantly reduce unnecessary A&E visits. Not only are these strategies more beneficial for patients, who can receive care in the comfort of their homes, but they also support the NHS, especially as we anticipate an incredibly challenging winter season.”
Chris Holt, Chief Transformation Officer at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS FT, emphasised the crucial role of data and AI in healthcare delivery: “Intelligently using data and harnessing AI is now essential in aiding our most vulnerable patients. Identifying those at greatest risk of hospitalisation during the winter allows us to intervene earlier with tailored support.”
In preparation for the winter season, the NHS recently launched its annual 111 campaign to encourage the use of NHS 111 services for urgent, non-life-threatening medical advice. The campaign, which will run until the end of March across various media platforms, informs the public about accessing advice from a range of NHS professionals, including clinicians, nurses, and GPs, all from the convenience of their homes. However, in emergencies that are life-threatening, the campaign reiterates the importance of calling 999.Read More
A sizable portion of medical practitioners harbour reservations about the burgeoning role of artificial intelligence (AI) in shaping diagnostic and treatment protocols, as indicated by a recent survey’s findings.
The study, unveiled by Medscape on Monday (13th of November, 2023), suggests that a majority, approximately 65 per cent, of the surveyed physicians harbour either significant or moderate concerns regarding AI’s burgeoning role in informing diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. Conversely, a smaller group, constituting 36 per cent, expressed minimal or no concern over the incorporation of AI in these critical areas of healthcare.
The survey also shed light on the varying degrees of receptivity towards AI among healthcare professionals. While 42 per cent of respondents expressed enthusiasm about the prospects of AI integration in their daily work, a notable 30 per cent remained ambivalent, and an apprehensive 28 per cent displayed reservations regarding its future implications.
Echoing the sentiments of caution, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a July opinion piece, prognosticated that AI’s integration into medical practice could supplant certain functions traditionally performed by physicians, and that such a shift might occur sooner than anticipated.
“Whilst the question of ‘if’ AI will replace some of the doctors’ responsibilities is becoming obsolete, the more pressing issue is ‘when’. For certain tasks, this technologically driven future is closer than we might envisage,” Gottlieb asserted.
The responses to the Medscape survey, however, revealed a more welcoming stance towards AI as a collaborative tool in diagnosis and treatment, with a significant 56 per cent of physicians indicating keen or moderate enthusiasm for AI as a complementary aid. The remaining 44 per cent reported feeling some degree of apprehension towards AI assistance.
Interestingly, the survey highlighted a generational divide in perceptions of AI, with younger doctors, particularly those under 35, displaying less enthusiasm compared to their middle-aged counterparts aged between 45 and 54 years.
This comprehensive survey, which ran from July 12 to August 11, garnered responses from 1,043 participants spanning over 29 medical specialties. The results carry a sampling error margin of 3.03 percent, ensuring 95 per cent confidence in the data gathered.Read More
In a groundbreaking investigation led by the team at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW), the potential and efficacy of digital platforms tailored for advanced weight management have been highlighted.
The research revolved around assessing the eagerness, acceptance, and active participation of patients on standby for their first-ever specialist weight management consultation. In the United Kingdom, specialised weight management services, often referred to as tier 3 services, offer a holistic approach to tackling obesity. These specialised services are generally anchored in hospitals or clinic facilities and bring together a diverse group of healthcare specialists. This includes dietitians, psychologists, specialist nurses, and doctors, all proficient in the realm of weight management.
For the purposes of this research, an NHS-approved digital platform named Gro Health was integrated into the service offering. This avant-garde health application propels numerous healthcare routes, with its tier 3 weight management feature, “W8Buddy”, acting as an online weight loss clinic. This feature delivers structured learning sessions, both individual and group coaching, an expansive list of over 2,000 recipes and meal schedules, and tools for health and nutrition tracking to chart progress.
The study drew in 199 prospective patients eagerly waiting for their appointment at the NHS Trust’s tier 3 weight management service.
Preliminary results indicate that over half of these individuals expressed genuine interest in the application. An impressive one-third went on to actively engage with the digital platform, highlighting the immense potential of such digital interventions in the specialised weight management scenario.
The engagement analysis unearthed intriguing data points. Those prone to emotional eating or those with an escalated BMI exhibited an increased propensity towards the Gro Health application. Meanwhile, aspects like age, ethnic background, and metabolic indicators like glycemia and lipid readings did not notably sway the interest.
These findings could serve as a blueprint for revolutionising weight management strategy. As digital healthcare tools evolve and gain traction, they stand poised as formidable and expansive strategies to confront the global issue of obesity.
Charlotte Summers, a behavioural change expert and the Founding Chief Operations Officer, expressed her enthusiasm, noting, “The pronounced interest demonstrated by patients in the Gro Health W8Buddy tool for weight management is truly heartening.”
She drew attention to the evident link between emotional eating, a raised BMI, and heightened engagement, highlighting, “This relationship underscores the transformative capacity of precise digital strategies in addressing weight-related concerns.”
Summers further elaborated on the journey ahead, “As we venture into providing tier 3 and 4 weight management services, we’re thrilled about tailoring these platforms with firsthand insights from both patients and healthcare providers. Such a collaborative effort not only champions a patient-driven model but also deepens our grasp on their preferences and anticipations. This, in turn, empowers us to offer top-tier, accurate care, be it through enhancing conventional healthcare avenues or pioneering virtual healthcare experiences.”
The study’s authors stress the need for continued exploration into understanding the challenges and motivators behind adopting digital tools and emphasise the importance of rigorously assessing their impact within specialised weight management services.
The rise of digital health platforms is sculpting the future of healthcare. This specific investigation underscores the transformative power of such tools, all while highlighting the necessity to unravel the complexities of patient engagement. As we witness the proliferation and capabilities of digital health platforms, the persistent quest to maximise their utility for patients and the broader healthcare spectrum is paramount.
Stay tuned for more revelations as ongoing studies continue to sculpt this rapidly evolving domain of weight management.Read More
In a significant report released by WHO Europe, there’s an emphasised call for an immediate boost in investments towards digital health literacy across the region.
The report, titled “Digital Health in the European Region: The Ongoing Commitment to Transformation,” sheds light on a concerning statistic: only half of the countries spanning Europe and Central Asia have rolled out policies tailored to bolster digital health literacy. This oversight leaves a considerable portion of the population in the shadows, devoid of the benefits of evolving digital healthcare platforms.
The landscape of healthcare has experienced a monumental shift in the WHO European Region over recent times, as is evident from the burgeoning adoption rate of digital health solutions. This transformation has redefined the dynamics of patient care.
Released during the Second WHO Symposium on the Future of Health Systems in a Digital Era held for the European Region, the report encompasses insights from all 53 member nations. Many countries within this bracket witnessed a spontaneous surge in the creation and deployment of digital health tools and policies due to the pressing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic – a time dominated by lockdowns and social distancing mandates. This led to the broader acceptance of telemedicine services and the advent of user-centric health applications. However, the report firmly stresses that the journey is far from complete.
A pressing concern is the evident disparity in the adoption and assimilation of digital health solutions across the region. This “digital health divide” implies that a staggering number of individuals are yet to harness the potential benefits of digital health advancements.
Diving deeper, the report draws attention to several pivotal areas:
- Of the countries surveyed, 44 have an established national digital health strategy.
- A unanimous consensus is seen with all 53 member nations having legislation that focuses on protecting individual data privacy.
- However, there’s a considerable disparity in the preparedness and execution, with only 19 countries offering guidance on evaluating the efficacy and safety of digital health initiatives.
- Slightly above 50% of these countries have put forth policies advocating digital health literacy and have set into motion a digital inclusion agenda.
- The pandemic saw 30 countries devising legislation to champion the cause of telehealth.
- An area that requires immediate attention is the oversight of mobile health (mHealth) applications. Many nations lack a dedicated body to ensure the quality, safety, and reliability of these apps. A mere 15% have reported systematic evaluations of state-backed mHealth initiatives.
- Just above half of the countries have strategised the application of Big Data and avant-garde analytics within the healthcare domain.
Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, opined on the matter, “In numerous nations, the growth trajectory of digital health platforms has been somewhat sporadic. This approach warrants an overhaul. It’s imperative to perceive digital health as a long-term, strategic investment, rather than a fleeting addition or a privilege enjoyed by a select few. It is a clarion call for our political and health leaders to strategically invest in the digital health infrastructure of tomorrow, today.”Read More
In a recent announcement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed its plans to allocate £30 million for state-of-the-art technology aimed at enhancing services provided by the NHS. This funding is anticipated to play a pivotal role in reducing patient wait times, expediting the diagnostic process, and introducing novel patient treatment methodologies.
The DHSC, on its website, highlighted that such financial backing is expected to alleviate some of the operational burdens the NHS might face during the upcoming winter season. Notably, the funds could potentially be utilised to expand 3D diagnostics, thus expediting cancer screenings, and to implement innovative logistic solutions such as drone deliveries.
Moreover, another significant avenue the investment could support is the augmentation of virtual wards. This would allow more patients to receive essential care within the comfort of their homes, ensuring hospital beds remain available for those in acute need. To date, the NHS has successfully established over 9,800 virtual ward beds, with plans to achieve the 10,000 bed milestone before winter strikes.
Regions throughout England can access this funding. Integrated care systems (ICSs) have been tasked with submitting proposals to both the DHSC and NHSE detailing how they would best leverage the technology. The application process is set to commence shortly.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, emphasised the government’s commitment to ensuring the medical fraternity is equipped with cutting-edge technology, stating, “From virtual ward beds to wearable medical devices, this new funding is a testament to our dedication to enhancing patient care, preparing for winter, and relieving hospital pressures.”
In addition to supporting the use of wearable devices that monitor vital signs and aid in the management of chronic ailments, ICSs might channel investments into advanced digital imaging, a move that would undoubtedly bolster diagnostic capabilities, especially in the realms of cancer detection and other severe illnesses.
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS’s interim national director of transformation, applauded the NHS’s innovative prowess, stating that such tech advancements have already positively impacted over 210,000 patients through virtual ward setups. Ellie Kearney, a spokesperson from the Health Tech Alliance, welcomed the financial boost but also expressed some members’ discontent with certain previous funding strategies.
In further developments, the DHSC referenced the Medical Technology Strategy they unveiled earlier in the year, which laid down a roadmap for enabling patient access to secure, efficient, and pioneering tech via the NHS. This latest £30 million injection builds upon a prior £21 million allocation towards AI diagnostic tools.
This strategic funding alignment is in sync with the government’s overarching vision for fortifying the NHS, especially with the challenges that winter typically brings. In addition to this tech fund, the government, in September, infused £200 million into the NHS, aiming to fortify its resilience. The Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan, rolled out at the beginning of the year, pledges to furnish 5,000 more hospital beds, 10,000 virtual ward beds, and 800 brand-new ambulances, supported by an impressive £1 billion fund.Read More
A recent study spearheaded by Xealth in 2023 underscores a significant shift towards digital health solutions among members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The survey, carried out from May to June, highlighted that an overwhelming 90% of CHIME members are now leaning into digital health strategies. This robust adoption rate prevails in spite of challenges such as fiscal constraints and limitations in staffing resources.
Delving deeper into the findings, a significant 81% of participants have seamlessly integrated digital health tools within their Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. Meanwhile, a noteworthy 19.1% claim to have not only achieved EHR integration of digital health platforms but also set distinct objectives and performance metrics surrounding them.
Mike McSherry, at the helm of Xealth as CEO and co-founder, expressed his insights on the matter. “The healthcare sector is typically perceived as resistant to rapid transformation. Yet, the swift embrace of digital health solutions is a testament to its increasing relevance and potential. It’s heartening to observe the overarching endorsement from top-tier management in health establishments. The correlation between digital health strategies and both the growth in bottom-line and reduction in readmissions is becoming pronounced. As digital initiatives continue to evolve, we anticipate these figures to further accentuate.”
The survey also shed light on several pivotal insights:
- A large majority, 81%, perceive digital health as encompassing apps and platforms that can be downloaded and used in conjunction with a dedicated device. This is closely trailed by digital tools for patient education, such as downloadable PDFs and video resources (excluding clinical references), accounting for 71.4%.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and stand-alone downloadable apps and platforms (which don’t necessitate a connected device) are recognised as integral components of digital health by two-thirds (66.7%) of those surveyed.
- An encouraging 76.2% of participants emphasised that their health systems witnessed a surge in patient involvement and interaction courtesy of enhanced digital health strategies. A considerable 47.6% credited the uptick in digital health tools for facilitating clinicians’ tasks and ensuring ease of operations.
- A positive fiscal performance coupled with decreased patient readmissions due to ramped-up digital health utilisation was confirmed by 14.3% of respondents.
- The primary drivers prompting health establishments to expand their digital health footprint were identified as increased funding from payers or employers (81%), heightened patient demand (71.4%), improved system compatibility and integration ease (66.7%), the establishment of clear CPT codes dedicated to digital interventions (42.9%), and the growing availability of clinical proof validating digital interventions (33.3%).
Interestingly, none of the participants identified a lack of endorsement from C-level executives or diminishing patient engagement as impediments in their digital health adoption journey.Read More
Diabetes, a condition commonly diagnosed in adults under 65, has been increasingly observed in the senior population. As the disease advances in this age group, it often brings forth complex healthcare challenges. This highlights the need for early diagnosis, especially among older adults vulnerable to either the onset or exacerbation of diabetes symptoms.
Innovations in artificial intelligence are offering new avenues for early detection of such health conditions. These AI-powered tools, especially effective when handling vast and precise datasets, are revolutionising the early diagnosis landscape.
A trailblazing AI model, pioneered by researchers at Emory University, stands out with its unique approach. This model is engineered to discern early signs of diabetes by analysing X-ray images obtained during various medical assessments. These X-rays were originally captured for diverse medical reasons such as chest discomfort, respiratory issues, or pre- and post-operative evaluations. Notably, the AI model underwent rigorous training using a whopping 270,000 X-rays sourced from nearly 160,000 individuals.
Historically, X-rays haven’t been a standard diagnostic tool for diabetes. However, this groundbreaking AI model demonstrated its proficiency in identifying correlations between the accumulation of fatty tissues in specific body regions and an increased risk of diabetes, as highlighted by the study authors.
As a next step, the research team is keen on fine-tuning the model’s accuracy. Their vision encompasses integrating this AI tool into electronic health record (EHR) systems, aiming to equip physicians and healthcare providers with timely alerts on potential diabetes risks.
To put things in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that an alarming 300,000 elderly individuals are diagnosed with diabetes for the first time annually. Diabetes’s prevalence is soaring, with a staggering 100% increase observed over the past three and a half decades. The Endocrine Society further reveals that nearly a third of the elderly population is grappling with diabetes.
The challenge, however, doesn’t end at diagnosis. Achieving effective diabetes management, especially in long-term care environments, poses significant hurdles. It is alarming to note that certain treatments lead to a heightened hypoglycemia risk, impacting around 35% of patients, as cited by the McKnight’s Clinical Daily. Overmedication is another pressing concern, with a considerable segment of the senior population not receiving timely medication adjustments. Amidst these challenges, the medical community is optimistic about emerging treatments such as SGLT2Is, which are on the cusp of wider adoption in long-term care settings. Furthermore, recent research has illuminated the potential benefits of kombucha tea in regulating blood glucose levels, offering a glimmer of hope in the fight against diabetes.Read More
In a significant announcement made during the Health Minister’s Meeting of the G20 Summit, the World Health Organization (WHO) joined forces with the G20 India presidency to introduce the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH). This noteworthy event was held under the aegis of the Government of India.
Designed as an acronym pronounced “guide”, the GIDH serves a dual purpose. Primarily, it will function as a network and platform managed by WHO to bolster the execution of the Global Strategy on Digital Health spanning from 2020 to 2025. Furthermore, WHO is entrusted with the responsibility of acting as the Secretariat, whose role is to synchronise global standards, assimilate best practices, and marshal resources. The ultimate objective is to expedite the transformation of the digital health system on a global scale.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed gratitude towards the G20 nations and the G20 India Presidency for acknowledging WHO’s unparalleled capabilities in this sector. He underscored WHO’s dedication to this cause, emphasising, “It necessitates the collective effort of the G20, development allies, and global institutions to realise our shared vision. WHO is firmly committed to augmenting countries’ capacities, aiming to enhance the availability of reliable digital solutions. Our vision is a future that epitomises health, safety, and equity.”
India’s Union Health Minister, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, reflecting on the event, stated, “This day will be etched in the annals of the G20 Health Working Group’s history. The member countries not only recognised a pressing priority but also collaborated fervently to bring it to fruition.” He went on to highlight that the Global Initiative on Digital Health is a pivotal achievement during India’s tenure as the G20 Presidency.
Tracing back to 2005, the inception of the WHO resolution on ehealth paved the way for the development and endorsement of the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health. Since then, an impressive tally of over 120 WHO member nations have conceptualised and implemented a national digital health strategy or policy.
The unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the potency of digital health interventions. While numerous nations leveraged digital health tools, many articulated a pressing need. Their focus shifted from mere product-centric and experimental digital health ventures to a more structured national digital health framework. This framework would encompass effective governance, comprehensive policy guidelines, and a skilled health workforce adept at selecting, maintaining, and tailoring digital health solutions.
The GIDH has charted a clear roadmap for its mission, which includes:
- Crafting well-defined, priority-centric investment blueprints for the digital health evolution.
- Enhancing the visibility and reporting of digital health assets.
- Encouraging the dissemination of knowledge and fostering collaboration across diverse geographies to catalyse growth.
- Championing unified government-led strategies for digital health governance at the national level.
- Augmenting both technical and monetary backing for the roll-out of the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020–2025 and its subsequent phases.
In a testament to its commitment, WHO, along with its partners, declared significant pledges both in monetary terms and resources from a diverse set of stakeholders, marking the grand unveiling of the GIDH.
The promise of digital health is profound. It is viewed as a catalyst propelling improved health outcomes, aligned with the aspiration of achieving Universal Health Coverage and the health-centric Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The myriad benefits of digital health range from empowering individuals on their health odysseys, facilitating healthcare providers in adhering to best practices and delivering exemplary care, to invigorating the entire health infrastructure through optimised supply chains and effective workforce administration.Read More
Ground-breaking research spearheaded by Harvard Medical School, in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, VA Boston Healthcare System, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) instrument capable of identifying individuals at the greatest risk of developing pancreatic cancer up to three years before diagnosis, using solely their medical records.
The study, published in Nature Medicine on May 8, indicates that implementing AI-driven population screening could be a key strategy in detecting those at a high risk of pancreatic cancer earlier. This could, in turn, hasten the diagnosis of a condition often detected at advanced stages when treatment options are less effective, resulting in poorer outcomes. Pancreatic cancer, one of the world’s deadliest malignancies, is anticipated to increase its mortality toll.
At present, there is an absence of population-wide screening tools for pancreatic cancer. Targeted screenings are performed for individuals with certain genetic mutations or a family history that increases their risk of developing the disease. However, these screenings may overlook other cases not fitting these criteria, the researchers highlighted.
The study’s co-senior investigator, Chris Sander, a faculty member in the Department of Systems Biology at the Blavatnik Institute at HMS, underscored the significance of the AI tool. “Deciding who is at a high risk for a disease and would benefit from additional testing is one of the most challenging determinations clinicians have to make. The tests can be more invasive, more costly, and carry their own risks. An AI tool that accurately identifies those at the highest risk for pancreatic cancer and who would gain the most from additional tests could greatly enhance clinical decision-making.”
If implemented widely, this AI-driven method could expedite the detection of pancreatic cancer, lead to earlier treatment, and improve patient outcomes, possibly extending their life spans.
“AI-driven screening provides the opportunity to change the course of pancreatic cancer, a formidable disease that is exceptionally challenging to diagnose early and treat promptly,” said study co-senior investigator Søren Brunak, a professor of disease systems biology and research director at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research at the University of Copenhagen.
In this novel study, the researchers trained the AI algorithm on two separate data sets, containing a total of 9 million patient records from Denmark and the United States. They instructed the AI model to identify potential signs of pancreatic cancer risk based on the data in the records.
The model could predict patients likely to develop pancreatic cancer in the future by identifying combinations of disease codes and the timing of their occurrence. Interestingly, many of the symptoms and disease codes were not directly related to or derived from the pancreas.
The researchers evaluated different versions of the AI models for their capacity to identify individuals at a heightened risk of disease development over different timescales – 6 months, one year, two years, and three years.
Overall, each iteration of the AI algorithm proved considerably more precise in predicting who would develop pancreatic cancer than current estimates of disease incidence in the general population. The researchers proposed that the model is likely as accurate in predicting disease onset as the existing genetic sequencing tests, which are generally only accessible to a small subset of patients in data sets.
Screening techniques for certain prevalent cancers, such as breast, cervix, and prostate cancer, rely on relatively straightforward and highly effective techniques, such as a mammogram, a Pap smear, and a blood test. These methods have significantly improved the outcomes for these diseases by ensuring early detection and intervention.
In contrast, pancreatic cancer poses greater challenges and costs in terms of screening and testing. Doctors predominantly focus on family history and the presence of genetic mutations. While these are crucial indicators of future risk, they often overlook many patients.
The AI tool presents a significant advantage in its potential applicability to any patient for whom health records and medical history are available, not solely those with a known family history or genetic predisposition for the disease. This is particularly important, the researchers noted, because many patients at a high risk may not be aware of their genetic predisposition or family history.
In the absence of clear indications that a person is at high risk for pancreatic cancer and without symptoms, clinicians may understandably hesitate to recommend more sophisticated and costlier testing methods such as CT scans, MRI, or endoscopic ultrasound.
When these tests are performed and suspicious lesions are detected, the patient must undergo a procedure to obtain a biopsy. Given its deep placement in the abdomen, the pancreas is difficult to reach and easy to inflame, leading to its nickname as “the angry organ.”
The researchers advocate for an AI tool that singles out those at the greatest risk for pancreatic cancer. This would ensure clinicians are testing the correct population, while also preventing others from undergoing unnecessary testing and additional procedures.
The survival rate for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in its early stages is about 44 percent, five years post-diagnosis. However, only 12 percent of cases are diagnosed at this stage. The survival rate decreases dramatically to 2 to 9 percent for those with tumours that have spread beyond their origin, the researchers estimated.
Chris Sander emphasised, “Despite significant advancements in surgical techniques, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, the survival rate remains low. Therefore, besides advanced treatments, there’s a pressing need for better screening, more focused testing, and earlier diagnosis. This is where the AI-based approach serves as the initial critical step in this process.”
For the current study, the researchers created multiple versions of the AI model and trained them on the health records of 6.2 million patients from Denmark’s national health system over a 41-year span. Of these patients, 23,985 developed pancreatic cancer over time.
During the training, the algorithm identified patterns suggesting future pancreatic cancer risk based on disease trajectories. For instance, diagnoses such as gallstones, anaemia, type 2 diabetes, and other gastrointestinal-related issues pointed to a higher risk for pancreatic cancer within three years of evaluation.
Inflammation of the pancreas was a strong predictor of future pancreatic cancer within an even shorter time span of two years.
The researchers caution that none of these diagnoses on their own should be deemed indicative or causative of future pancreatic cancer. However, the pattern and sequence in which they occur over time provide clues for an AI-based surveillance model and could prompt physicians to closely monitor or test those at elevated risk.
Next, the researchers tested the best-performing algorithm on an entirely new set of patient records it had not previously seen — a U.S. Veterans Health Administration data set comprising nearly 3 million records over 21 years, including 3,864 individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The tool’s predictive accuracy was somewhat lower on the US data set. The researchers attributed this to the shorter collection period and the different patient population profiles in the U.S. dataset compared to the Danish dataset.
When the algorithm was retrained from scratch on the U.S. dataset, its predictive accuracy improved. This, the researchers said, underscores the importance of training AI models on high quality, rich data and the necessity of access to large representative datasets of clinical records aggregated nationally and internationally.
In the absence of globally valid models, AI models should be trained on local health data to ensure their training reflects the specific characteristics of local populations.Read More
“Digital health will just be healthcare”: Hospital chiefs predict seamless integration of healthcare and technology
Leading digital authorities within the healthcare sector foresee a more virtual, automated, and user-friendly health system in five years. Their vision includes seamless digital integration, a feature which has already begun to take shape across many hospitals, according to industry leaders interviewed by Becker’s, a leading healthcare publication.
Daniel Barchi, executive vice president and CIO of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, equates the evolution of digital health with the development of e-commerce, noting that just as electronic commerce became a mainstream aspect of business, so too will digital health simply become “health”. CommonSpirit, operating 143 hospitals in 22 states, is embracing this digital evolution by using its size and mission to leverage digital population health tools. These tools aggregate data to assist clinicians and patients in managing health and wellness.
Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health’s executive vice president and chief information and digital officer, Nassar Nizami, expects to see a broad adoption, integration, and implementation of several technologies within the next five years. He asserts that digital health signifies a cultural revolution within traditional healthcare. The organisation is investing in enhancing its existing AI technology, which aids physicians in assessing cancer risk in lumps or nodules, stroke risk in CT scans, and the potential requirement for blood transfusions in patients. Moreover, the organisation is utilising automation in areas such as IT, human resources, sourcing and in its virtual nursing initiative. Jefferson’s telemedicine program, JeffConnect, showcases the effective use of mobile health and remote patient monitoring, and has served as a model for other healthcare systems.
Brenton Burns, executive vice president of UPMC Enterprises, points out that Pittsburgh-based UPMC is targeting increased access to care and efficiencies through automation in various departments, including call centres and scheduling. He emphasises that digital tools have enabled the healthcare provider to extend beyond traditional settings, offering care through diverse channels such as telemedicine and home visits. Accessible and interoperable data, he insists, are vital to success.
Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health is also increasing its digital capacity, while concurrently assisting other health systems through its digital health subsidiary, Accrete Health Partners. Jason Szczuka, the organisation’s chief digital officer, describes how they are developing, investing, and partnering with industry leaders to optimise IT operations, improve patient access to care and unlock crucial data, analytics, and automation capabilities.
New Orleans-based Ochsner Health plans to expand its asynchronous virtual tools such as e-visits and e-consults, enhance its online scheduling system, and bolster its AI and remote monitoring capabilities, explains Denise Basow, MD, executive vice president and chief digital officer. The organisation is utilising technology to predict and prevent health issues, deliver personalised care, manage patients efficiently, and reduce total healthcare costs.
Orlando Health, in Florida, is investing in its foundational IT platforms, infrastructure, data, and analytics to enhance the connection between providers and patients, regardless of their geographical location. Novlet Mattis, the organisation’s senior vice president and chief digital and information officer, reveals plans for an enterprise digital platform infused with clinical decision support tools. She envisions digital health as a standard element of health and wellness management in five years, rather than a novel innovation.
Kelly Jo Golson, executive vice president and chief brand, communications and consumer experience officer at Charlotte, N.C.-based Advocate Health, affirms that their recent merger with Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health has enabled an acceleration in digital transformation. For Advocate Health, consumer-centricity is paramount. The strategy includes a flexible, dynamic platform that provides consistent experiences, simple scheduling, interconnected programs for remote patient monitoring, and the incorporation of 24-7 virtual access into clinical workflows.
Ardent Health Services, based in Nashville, Tenn., is endeavouring to make care easier to access, whether in-person or digital. The chief consumer officer, Reed Smith, predicts that in the future, digital health will be synonymous with healthcare, without any segregation in delivery methods. He anticipates that consumers will have more control, and healthcare providers will be able to offer more support, especially for less critical needs, as care delivery adapts to accommodate more individual, do-it-yourself approaches.Read More
A recent pilot study by researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) brings forth promising insights into the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in mental health treatment. The study demonstrates encouraging correlations between the use of an AI voice assistant named Lumen and improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients, along with noticeable changes in their brain activity.
The UIC study brings hope for the inclusion of virtual therapy in addressing the existing gaps in mental health care. The limited availability of mental health professionals and unequal access to mental health services, particularly among vulnerable communities, often impede proper treatment. The application of AI could potentially circumvent these obstacles.
Dr. Olusola A. Ajilore, UIC Professor of Psychiatry and a co-author of the study, noted the urgent necessity for innovative treatment methods, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19, which resulted in a surge of anxiety and depression cases. He remarked, “This technology could serve as a bridge. It isn’t meant to supersede traditional therapy, but it could be a vital intermediary measure before someone seeks treatment.”
Lumen, which functions as a skill within the Amazon Alexa application, is the brainchild of Dr. Ajilore, Dr. Jun Ma, the senior author of the study, and their colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis and Pennsylvania State University. The National Institute of Mental Health provided a $2 million grant to support the development of Lumen.
The researchers enlisted over 60 patients for this clinical study, which focused on the effect of the application on mild to moderate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The study also looked at activity in brain areas that have been associated with the advantages of problem-solving therapy. Two-thirds of the participants engaged with Lumen through a study-provided iPad for eight problem-solving therapy sessions. The remaining participants served as a control group that did not receive any intervention.
Upon concluding the intervention, the participants who interacted with the Lumen app exhibited reduced scores for depression, anxiety, and psychological distress in comparison to the control group. Moreover, these participants demonstrated enhanced problem-solving skills and increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region related to cognitive control. The results showed particular promise among women and underrepresented populations.
Dr. Ma highlighted the significance of problem-solving therapy delivered through the Lumen app. He stated, “It’s about reshaping the way people perceive problems and their approach to solving them without being overwhelmed by emotions.”
A comprehensive trial comparing the efficacy of Lumen to a control group on a waitlist and patients receiving human-guided problem-solving therapy is presently underway. However, Dr. Ma emphasises that the aim of the virtual coach is not to outperform human therapists but to address the critical shortages in the mental health system.
He concluded, “Digital mental health services should be viewed as a means to bridge the gap between the supply and demand of mental health care. We need to identify innovative, effective, and safe ways to deliver treatments to individuals who might otherwise lack access, thereby filling this gap.”Read More
As medical institutions hasten their journey towards digital modernisation, many fail to address crucial transformations in key areas such as personnel, technology, cultural ethos, and procedural workflows, necessary for the success of their digital initiatives, says Kathy Narain, Chief Digital Officer at Hoag Hospital based in Newport Beach, California.
According to a 2020 study conducted by Boston Consulting Group, a reputable management consulting firm, it is observed that victorious digital transitions are fairly uncommon. Across various industries, a mere 30% of digital transformation endeavours are reportedly successful.
Ms. Narain isn’t taken aback by this statistic. “The figures aligning with success rates don’t shock me. However, the remaining 70% face a multitude of obstacles that are challenging to conquer. When an institution decides to undergo digital metamorphosis, it’s not merely about constituting a team dedicated to digital assignments. To achieve triumph, it necessitates alterations in human resources, technological infrastructure, cultural mindset, and procedural methodologies,” she explained.
Although the hurdles of digital transformation may seem formidable, Ms. Narain believes the most significant obstacles stem from areas such as leadership, outdated systems, and economic repercussions. “In the absence of endorsement from the executive panel, who are instrumental in various organisational functionalities and a transparent blueprint on how technology can bolster outcomes and cater to the future requisites of customers, transformation initiatives falter,” she stated.
The financial aspect is a significant deterrent in the pursuit of digital transformation; healthcare systems may hesitate to invest in innovative technology due to its high cost. This reluctance becomes more conspicuous as the economy wavers and hospitals grapple with declining margins.
“Transformation is expensive and time-consuming, making the investment feel like an expenditure with a return that isn’t as immediate as expected,” Ms. Narain remarked. “The capacity to adhere to the plan while still maintaining financial support for the necessary modifications is challenging for numerous organisations.”
In the healthcare realm, many hospitals and health systems are still dependent on intricate legacy systems. Investing in digital transformation implies restructuring existing workflows or procedures, which can invite resistance and pose challenges.
“Efforts to consolidate, update, and centralise technological systems and data requires a multi-year investment ridden with bouts of exasperation,” said Ms. Narain. “The ability to navigate these hurdles, while retaining the executive team’s support as it means modifying the current processes, is crucial.”Read More
Leading telecommunications entity BT aims to leverage its established presence and specialised connectivity know-how to vitalize the digital infrastructure of the UK healthcare system, and is amplifying its healthcare portfolio to meet this goal.
The corporation has spent the last two years fostering its healthcare division, instituting a clinical advisory board to guide the creation of products tailored for the NHS needs. It also initiated its Vanguard Programme, envisioned as an interactive platform that enables healthcare professionals on the frontline to test and assess technology to guarantee its compatibility with local necessities.
“Our objective is to capitalise on opportunities that complement BT’s core business of connectivity,” Neal Herman, HealthTech Director at BT’s innovation centre, Etc., shared. “Our aim revolves around connecting individuals to the appropriate care at the right moment, and every endeavour we undertake contributes towards achieving that.”
An independent unit of Etc. is testing the implementation of drone technology for medicine deliveries over BT networks, and according to Herman, drones might also be incorporated into future healthcare solutions.
Herman detailed that BT’s vision incorporates three major themes: health navigation that aids in shaping patient interactions with the healthcare system; patient flow that enables hospitals and healthcare providers to streamline patient movement within the system; and remote care.
He depicted the first category as a future where “the healthcare professional contacts you, instead of the other way around.” Health navigation is fundamentally a guiding tool that enhances digital platforms and interactive voice response (IVR) technology. Commencing at general practice, the initial point of patient access, these solutions ensure that individuals reach the suitable healthcare provider from the outset, whether it be an immediate referral to a specialist or a physiotherapy session.
Patient flow, as Herman explained, becomes effective once patients arrive at the hospital, facilitating efficient management of patient capacity by nursing staff and site managers. “It’s about offering site managers real-time data flow to track the availability of beds,” Herman noted. These solutions are presently active in northeast Essex.
The remote component of the process incorporates products that vary from wearable technology to virtual ward monitoring platforms and is currently being piloted in Warrington for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hypertension.
Recently, BT unveiled a virtual ward initiative that will integrate smart monitoring devices and collaborations with other service providers to link artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled virtual care platforms. This will facilitate real-time health data capture and evaluation of patient conditions in care homes, community nursing, and virtual wards.
“BT excels at implementing technology on a grand scale and we possess a significant privilege to contribute,” said Professor Sultan Mahmud, BT’s Healthcare Business Director.
Having previously served as the chief innovation, integration, and research officer at Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust (RWT), Mahmud joined BT in 2021. He added, “BT is adept at bridging the translational gap. This is fundamentally about achieving technical interoperability and interoperation.” A crucial objective of interoperability, he emphasised, is to ensure that technology procurement avoids “closed systems or vendor lock-in.”
Mahmud further pointed out that the company’s strategy is reflective of its commitment to assist the NHS in addressing staffing shortages and managing waiting lists. Employed effectively, remote technology can function as a tool for staff retention and aid in easing the demand for hospital beds.Read More
A recent study conducted by UC San Diego Health suggests that ChatGPT, a powerful AI model, may offer more empathetic responses to patients’ queries. This finding has spurred the launch of a pilot program wherein Epic and Microsoft’s generative AI technology autonomously generate responses to messages.
Dr. Christopher Longhurst, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Digital Officer at UC San Diego Health, expressed enthusiasm about the pilot programme after discussing the study results with one of Epic’s leaders. “Given our preliminary experience with ChatGPT, we decided to participate in the pilot,” he said.
The pilot program, initiated by UC San Diego Health, UW Health based in Madison, Wisconsin, and Stanford Health Care located in Palo Alto, California, marks the first instance of health systems using AI, courtesy of Microsoft and Epic, to aid physicians in addressing patients’ questions on online portals.
This nascent project is designed to alleviate the burden of documentation on physicians. Dr. Longhurst expressed concern over the increasing volume of messages doctors have to manage nationwide, underscoring the pressing need to address this issue. Excessive EHR documentation, a factor contributing to physician burnout, is reported by 57% of providers. However, generative AI and ChatGPT are indicating potential to ease this problem. “Our existing research already affirms that ChatGPT can be beneficial,” said Dr. Longhurst. “The recent integration of this AI into our clinical workflow and electronic health record system is noteworthy.”
However, while the AI’s integration is encouraging, Dr. Longhurst added that it would be deployed cautiously with clinicians reviewing all AI-generated responses before they are relayed to patients. “In the pilot, ChatGPT drafts a response to a patient’s query, which a doctor can choose to use as a starting point, modify, or opt to craft their own response,” explained Dr. Longhurst. “Every auto-generated message is accompanied by a disclaimer stating that the message was created in a secure environment and was reviewed and edited by the patient’s care team.”
Given the apprehension patients may harbour towards AI, Dr. Longhurst emphasised the importance of transparency in AI usage by UC San Diego Health. He said, “While the technology holds potential for various applications, we plan to study and pilot each application thoughtfully to ensure that it is beneficial and does not inadvertently cause harm.”
The UC San Diego Health team is scrutinising the AI for potential bias and the risk of exacerbating health inequities. They are also gathering data to determine if the tool enhances clinicians’ efficiency and if patients find ChatGPT’s responses useful. While preliminary feedback from physicians and patients has been favourable, Dr. Longhurst stated that an additional two to three months would be necessary to evaluate whether the tool truly delivers on its promises.Read More
The healthcare industry has undergone significant changes over the past century, with the proliferation of smartphones and digital media revolutionising the way patients access medical information. In recent years, applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have further transformed the industry, enhancing the consumer experience, healthcare delivery, and healthcare in general.
The traditional doctor-patient connection is being replaced by a wave of digital health technologies, including telehealth services, AI, and ML. These advancements are reshaping an entirely new ecosystem for technology-driven global healthcare. The Indian digital healthcare industry, for example, was worth INR 524.97 Bn in 2021, and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 28.50%, or INR 2528.69 Bn by 2027, according to the research “Digital Healthcare Market in India 2022-2027.”
AI and digital health are rapidly transforming the global healthcare industry in several ways, including:
Improved diagnosis and treatment: By evaluating patient data including medical histories, test findings, and imaging scans, AI-powered systems can assist doctors in arriving at more accurate diagnoses and creating more effective treatment regimens. Additionally, the AI program can recognize trends and forecast which treatments will be more efficient and appropriate for patients, ultimately improving patient outcomes.
Remote patient monitoring: Digital health technology allows medical professionals to monitor their patients’ vital signs and health status remotely, lowering the risk of readmission to the hospital. Moreover, it broadens opportunities for pharmaceutical marketers to promote prescription drugs online.
Personalised medicine: AI algorithms can analyse a patient’s genetic and clinical data to create personalised treatment plans that take into account individual responses to medications and other treatments. The availability of AI-collected patient data can significantly enhance personalised diagnosis and outcomes.
Drug discovery: AI can accelerate drug discovery by analysing vast amounts of data to identify potential drug targets and predict how various compounds will interact with the human body. The Global Artificial Intelligence for Drug Discovery Market is expected to reach around US$ 8,149 Mn by 2026 and register a CAGR of above 42% over the forecast period 2019 to 2026 as the technology holds great potential.
Healthcare operations and management: By automating administrative processes, lowering expenses, and enhancing patient access to care, digital health technology can enhance healthcare operations. The adoption of AI and ML technologies offers significant potential for automating administrative tasks and lowering operating costs as a whole.
Overall, AI and digital health are improving patient outcomes, cost, and efficiency, rapidly changing the global healthcare sector. Moreover, the recent introduction of ChatGPT has generated buzz in the industry because it allows medical professionals to provide quicker, more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans, improving patient outcomes. It also enables medical professionals to access patient data easily, allowing the creation of customised treatment plans and the delivery of better medical services.Read More
Health Education England (HEE) has released the first-ever roadmap outlining the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and its impact on the healthcare workforce.
The report analyses the implementation of AI and data-driven technologies in the NHS, their adoption rate, and the impact on staff. The roadmap aims to provide insight to healthcare leaders into AI policy, education, regulation, innovation, digital transformation, and workforce strategy. The report examines the timeframe for AI projects’ implementation, the distribution of AI technology in clinical areas and the workforce, the different uses of AI in healthcare, and the effects on staff and patients.
Dr Hatim Abdulhussein, clinical lead for the Digital, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Technologies in Education (DART-Ed) programme at HEE, states that the AI roadmap is a valuable asset in understanding the AI and data-driven healthcare landscape and its implications on staff and learners. The report is a collaborative effort between Unity Insights, NICE, NHS AI Lab, and the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC). The report also builds on the Topol review, providing a framework to identify and classify AI technology in healthcare.
The report finds that diagnostic technology, such as those used in imaging, pathology, and endoscopy, accounts for the most significant proportion of AI use in healthcare (34% share), followed by automation/service efficiency, P4 medicine, remote monitoring, and therapeutic. Of the 56 technologies estimated for large-scale deployment within a year, 77% are for use in secondary care, 23% for use in primary care, and 7% for use in community care. A total of 155 workforce groups, across 67 clinical areas, use AI tech identified by HEE, with medics in clinical radiology and general practice being the most affected, as well as non-clinical admin staff.
Abdulhussein highlights the importance of achieving transformation through emerging technology to improve patient care and scalability throughout the country, and the roadmap’s insights will focus efforts on education and training. The UK government recently unveiled its ten-year national plan to tackle cancer, including an increased use of AI and machine learning in NHS healthcare. England is also trialling a new approach to the ethical adoption of AI in healthcare.Read More