How big data could revolutionise the healthcare industry
We generate data about ourselves all the time, the acquisition and interpretation of which is big business. In many cases, this data may be fairly trivial or inconsequential. In others, this may be the most private and confidential data of all - about our health, for example.
Regardless of what type it falls under, there are businesses out there that will want it.
The question of data in healthcare is timely considering the UK’s exit from the European Union, and the potential for healthcare data to be used as a bargaining chip in future trade deals with the United States and others.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is one of the oldest and most established public healthcare systems in the world. Its practice of tying data to an individual NHS number means its data provides a broader account of patients’ health, and with the NHS increasingly digitising old records, a chronologically longer one too. EY has estimated the data to be worth almost £10bn.
The potential value of that data led to raised eyebrows when, in December, the UK government gave Amazon unfettered access to non-patient data for free, with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in turn providing health information via voice search.
Elsewhere, other big tech firms are interested in acquiring medical data, with Google doing a deal with Ascension, a company that runs 2,600 hospitals in the US.
Of course, such data is not purely useful to American tech giants, with the NHS and other health bodies themselves able to capitalise upon it.
One possible avenue of exploration lies in opening up such data sets to AI. The CEO of NHSX, the NHS’s digital transformation arm, Matthew Gould wrote in a recent blog post: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds enormous potential for the NHS, if we can use it right. It can reduce the burden on the system by taking on the tasks that can be converted into an algorithm. Many of these are in areas of greatest pressure, like radiography and pathology. It could improve patient outcomes, and increase productivity across the system, freeing up clinicians’ time so they can focus on the parts of the job where they add the most value”
Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”