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London Hospitals to use AI to slash waiting times

British hospitals are planning to use Artificial Intelligence technology to bring more efficiency to their services.

A new partnership between the University College London Hospitals and the London-based Alan Turing Institute aims at substituting doctors with AI algorithms in some specific scenario. For instance, the plan intends to put AI in charge of detecting cancer by analysing CT scan, or deciding which patients in A&E should be prioritised for a visit.

Prof Bryan Williams, director of research at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, commented on the new partnership: “You can go on your phone and book an airline ticket, decide what movies you’re going to watch or order a pizza … it’s all about AI,” he told The Guardian. “On the NHS, we’re nowhere near sophisticated enough. We’re still sending letters out, which is extraordinary.”

The Hospital hopes that AI can reduce waiting times for emergency visits— currently very poor , with only 76.4 percent of patients receiving treatment within four hours at hospital A&E units in England.

UCLH’s chief executive Marcel Levi also commented on the initiative: “Our performance this year has fallen short of the four-hour wait, which is no reflection on the dedication and commitment of our staff,” he said.

“[It’s] an indicator of some of the other things in the entire chain concerning the flow of acute patients in and out the hospital that are wrong.”

Some are worrying that more AI in healthcare could result in questionable data-sharing practices — see the DeepMind-Royal Free Hospital kerfuffle for reference— or to excessive reliance on algorithms rather than on human doctors.

But Levi said: “Machines will never replace doctors, but the use of data, expertise and technology can radically change how we manage our services – for the better.”

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