This week (30 October 2019) NHSX published its report ‘Artificial Intelligence: How to get it right’, providing an overview of the current state of play of data-driven technologies within the health and care system in the UK.

This informative new report covers all aspects of the current and potential use of AI in health and care from the sector’s development to data protection, governance, adoption and workforce. With the recent announcement of the £250 million NHS AI Lab it aims to provide insight into the reasons for investing in this sector and how AI can help achieve goals for technology use in the NHS and the care system.

State of the Nation

Drawing on the NHSX’s ‘State of the Nation’ survey and an NIHR Innovation Observatory international horizon scan, the report provides insight into the common uses of AI, the state of market-readiness of AI products, the consideration of ethical issues associated with algorithms and pain points experienced by companies in the development process.

“The results of the Horizon Scanning exercise show that diagnosis and screening are the most common uses of AI, with 132 different AI products used in diagnosis or screening covering 70 different conditions. While significant progress has been made over the last year, just under half of the products available globally have market authorisation and just one third of AI developers in the UK believe that their product will be ready for deployment at scale in one year.”

Artificial Intelligence: How to get it right, Chapter 2

Governance of AI

The report takes an in-depth look at the governance of AI, particularly covering key areas such as the explainability of algorithms, evidence generation on the efficacy of algorithms and patient safety. It frames this in the code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology which was first published last year. This includes a principle on evidence for effectiveness which was developed with input from NICE, MedCity and Public Health England, drawing on work done on the evidence standards for digital health technologies that were first published last year.

The utmost importance of data protection for patients is reflected by the dedication of a chapter to this area, outlining the collaborative work undertaken by key partners across the system to clarify the rules of information governance and streamline access to data.

“The framework is important to encourage adoption of new technologies, including AI, as it is vital that those using them in the provision of care are confident that they work safely.”

Artificial Intelligence: How to get it right, Chapter 3

Adoption and spread of AI

Adoption and spread of AI is another key topic and this highlights the importance of ascertaining ‘what good looks like’ and how to monitor the impact of the introduction of AI over time. According to the report, effective adoption will also depend on the workforce and there is a need to ensure people have the skills to feel confident in using AI in clinical practice safely and effectively.

The report concludes with a summary of the aims of the NHS AI Lab to help overcome any challenges in these areas so that the application of artificially intelligent systems for healthcare can reach their full potential in helping the NHS treat and care for people.

“Getting these foundations right matters hugely, which is why we are investing £250 million in the creation of the NHS AI Lab to focus on supporting innovation in an open environment where innovators, academics, clinicians and others can develop, learn, collaborate and build technologies at scale to deliver maximum impact in health and care safely and effectively.”

Artificial Intelligence: How to get it right, Ministerial Foreward