As we are currently undergoing a technological evolution, health care has taken advantage of the constant advancements, with artificial intelligence (AI) demonstrating great potential to make substantial differences in health and care settings.
One of the greatest contributions of AI is its ability to analyse large quantities of complex information. This has proven to be extremely useful in cases such as breast cancer screening, where deep learning AI is used to analyse standard mammograms, allowing a greater number of women to be screened more quickly.
NHSX is a collaboration of teams that has been created to drive the digital transformation of care. Within this unit exists the NHS AI Lab, and in partnership with the Health Foundation, they have recently awarded £1.4million to four projects that are using AI to address racial and ethnic health inequalities.
With increasing amounts of data being exposed since the beginning of the pandemic, such as that people from minority ethnic groups were 2-4 times greater than those among the White population in England to die from COVID-19, Dr Indra Joshi, Director of the NHS AI Lab, said, “As we strive to ensure NHS patients are amongst the first in the world to benefit from leading AI, we also have a responsibility to ensure those technologies don’t exacerbate existing health inequalities.”
The four innovative chosen projects to receive the fund cover a wide span of areas in which health inequalities could persist. The University of Westminster proposes an AI-driven chatbot that aims to increase the uptake of screening of STIs, including HIV, among minority ethnic communities. The chatbot will also give advice about STIs and provide a baseline for the development of more chatbots to assist minority ethnic groups in the NHS.
St George’s and Moorfields Eye Hospital are collaborating on a project that aims to ensure that AI technologies that detect diabetic retinopathy for all subgroups of the population. Left undetected, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness, thus this AI aims to allow a greater rate of screening, with greater accuracy.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust are leading STANDING Together, which is an international consensus process that develops standards for datasets that underpin AI systems. This way, the data can be more diverse, inclusive and support the development of AI systems which work across all demographic groups, therefore ensuring that nobody is left behind with the progression in AI.
These projects all aim to gradually close the gaps in minority ethnic health outcomes. This is a great step in the right direction for the future of the NHS, since the new era of AI could bring with it several opportunities to even out the disparities that exist within the health system.