England’s NHS AI roadmap aims to prepare the workforce

Health Education England (HEE) has published the first roadmap on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the NHS and its impact on the workforce, with the aim of preparing for the future.

The report, which expands on the Topol review, examines the use of AI and data-driven technologies that currently exist in the healthcare system, the adoption of these new technologies, and the impact so far on labor.

Ultimately, the ambition after the publication of this roadmap is to ensure that a clear strategic framework and plan is in place for the next 15-20 years, so that the future workforce know as much as you can about the AI ​​and data-driven technologies that will be in use.

The report’s findings show that diagnostic technologies, such as those used in imaging, pathology and endoscopy, were the most common use of AI in healthcare with a 34% share, followed by the automation/efficiency of services, P4 medicine, remote monitoring, therapy and others.

In addition, 56 technologies are estimated for large-scale deployment within a year, with 77% of these technologies used in secondary care, 23% in primary care and 7% in community care, the report said.

Speaking to Digital Health News, Dr. Hatim Abdulhussein, clinical lead for the Digital, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Technologies in Education (DART-Ed) program at HEE, said: “The AI ​​roadmap and The accompanying board were essentially an opportunity for us to begin to understand the landscape of emerging technologies that were currently in the healthcare system.

“This is really just the beginning for us on this journey. When we set up our DART-Ed program at HEE, we knew we had to do some horizon scanning to really understand the scope and what’s out there.

“This technology exists and is in use, it’s not necessarily something 20 years from now, it’s something that’s here and now to some extent, but not in the scalability and diffusion that will largely affect the workforce. work,” he added.

“But it will quite significantly affect certain sectors of the workforce in terms of the types of technologies we work with and interact with. So our roadmap is really important to educate leadership groups around those specific workforce areas, that was really the end goal of this work.

The pandemic transition to digital

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that digital, AI and data-driven technologies are needed across the NHS more than ever.

Abdulhussein said, “I work a few days a week in GP and every time I’m there I see several areas where my work could be transformed by the role of technology. I have seen a massive change in the way we work as a result of the pandemic.

“We have the ability to sort more efficiently with the use of things like online consultations and other types of technology like that, so I’ve seen massive changes in the way I work and I think that’s really important.

“But it’s important to capitalize on this shift because I believe digital transformation will be one of the biggest enablers to being able to deliver the health and care we want.”

With the ambition to move to Integrated Care Systems (ICS) in the near future, AI and data-driven technologies are expected to play a significant role in the future of healthcare.

Abdulhussein added, “I think there really is a role to play in getting these technologies aligned with key priority areas of integrated care systems. The ultimate goal of these types of technologies is to provide a more personalized and streamlined healthcare system.

“These technologies could be really interesting if we understand their maturity and relate it to areas within ICS and the roadmap helps to do that.”

AI bias

Despite the many benefits of AI and the healthcare breakthroughs the technology could bring about, there is one primary risk that comes with it. Biases in AI can arise when findings cannot be generalized to large scales and the issue has led to the announcement that the NHS in England will test a new approach to biases in AI with the aim of eradicating them .

Abdulhussein said: “There is no doubt that bias is a risk and it is something we really need to be aware of. In terms of the successful implementation and adoption of AI, if we don’t really consider it, we run the risk of unintended consequences.

“We need to think about the educational strategy we need to put in place to ensure healthcare professionals are aware of these biases when using technology.

“We are building a digital healthcare capability framework that will define the learning needs of our healthcare professionals and the capabilities they need in AI, other digital healthcare technologies and robotics. . »

The ultimate goal

HEE has achieved a lot in recent years during a very difficult time, however, looking to the future, Hatim Abdulhussein believes there are still many goals to reach and things to accomplish.

He concluded: “The ultimate goal for me is to create a health system that enables high quality care for our citizens, that is streamlined, efficient, responsive to the needs of the individual and powered by health technology. , including data-driven technology. is basically an aspect.

“If we’re going to create this system, the short-term ambition for me is just to make other key stakeholders, including our learners and healthcare professionals, aware that this technology exists and we can use it.

“Long term, digital health, AI and data science must be the new normal part of our professional development, in every curriculum and adequate hands-on training. I want it to be part of our daily work and then integrated into our work to improve the health care we provide.