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AI ‘won’t solve all healthcare problems’, new report suggests

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not going to solve all the issues the healthcare sector is facing, a new report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has warned.

The Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare paper, which was commissioned by NHS Digital, analysed the clinical, ethical and practical problems concerning AI in the health and social care system in the UK.

Specifically, the report identified seven key recommendations for politicians, service providers and policymakers. These focused on the concept that it would be sensible to “avoid thinking AI is going to solve all the problems the health and care systems across the UK are facing”.

The paper also stretched that is unlikely that AI will replace specialist clinicians altogether, but also that future doctors should be trained in data science.

Professor Carrie MacEwan, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “With AI starting to be used in some areas of clinical activity, such as retinal eye scans and targeting radiotherapy to treat cancer, it has been claimed the need for some medical specialists will be much reduced in the future.

“The Academy enquiry has found that, if anything, the opposite is true and that AI is not likely to replace clinicians for the foreseeable future but makes the case for training more doctors in data science as well as medicine.”

Other key points from the report focused on the regulation of AI development to ensure patient safety; clearer guidance around accountability, responsibility and wider legal implications of AI; availability and opened of data across private and public sectors for those who meet governance standards and transparency of tech companies to allow clinicians to be confident in the tools they are using.

Commenting on the report, Dr Indra Joshi, digital health and AI clinical lead at NHS England, said: “We’ve got a real opportunity with AI-based tech to gain time and efficiencies, but it has to be implemented in a safe and trusted way.”

AI is already deployed in the health sector in the UK. Last November, the UK government poured £50m for the development of five new AI healthcare centres to open this year across the country, and earlier this year scientists from  the University of Warwick and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Hospitals have developed an AI system that can dramatically reduce the time needed to ensure that chest X-rays with critical findings will receive an expert radiologist opinion sooner.

Image via mohamed hassan/pxhere.

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