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AI technology could hold key to improving health services

AI technology could hold key to improving health services

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The need to embrace technology to radically improve how the NHS successfully delivers its services is behind a new partnership between the University of Essex and Provide CIC.

New health secretary Matt Hancock sees technology as the key to changing the NHS for the better – making it more convenient for people, as well as freeing up time for busy clinicians.

The Innovate UK-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will look at how artificial intelligence (AI) can help the NHS cope with the increasing demands of the 21st century by catering for people’s changing needs of how they use services.

The project will also involve psychologists at the University of Essex gaining a deeper understanding of potential barriers to the use of new technology, so clinicians will trust and embrace it, where safe and appropriate to do so, as an effective tool to improve how services are delivered to people.

Clinicians currently assess people (known as clinical triage) over the phone for many services, such as adult therapy, stop smoking support and general practice in the NHS, with administrative staff manually booking appointments. The new partnership is set to improve the efficiency of this process by creating a decision-making engine, powered by AI, which will identify the type of service people need and then signpost them to the bespoke level of support they require.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to use AI to determine the right approach for patients, deliver high levels of service and provide value for money,” said John Niland, Provide Chief Executive.

The initial trial will take place across Provide’s musculoskeletal services – for people with conditions affecting joints, muscles and other soft tissues – and, if successful, will be deployed further via a web-based platform across community and primary health care services, improving their efficiency and effectiveness and consistency in decision making – one of the greatest benefits of machine learning and AI.

John Niland, Chief Executive of Provide, said:

Our analysis shows that accurate classification and grouping of people enables more effective interventions, this can be achieved via non-face-to-face appointments such as Skype and online self-assessment and other self-assessment approaches. We’re excited to have this opportunity to use AI to determine the right approach for patients, deliver high levels of service and provide value for money.”

Provide delivers a range of health and social care services across Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk and approached the University of Essex for their world-leading research and expertise in data science.

“The wider impact on the NHS of this project could be huge as the technological solutions we’ll be developing in partnership with Provide could eventually be rolled out to many other services and areas,” said Professor Maria Fasli, Director of the Institute of Analytics and Data Science and UNESCO chair in analytics and data science.

The three-year KTP will help Provide innovate through a targeted collaboration with leading University of Essex social and data science academics and newly-recruited researchers.

Professor Maria Fasli, Director of the University’s Institute of Analytics and Data Science and UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science, is the lead academic on this project and will drive the development of the AI-powered decision-making engine for Provide.

Professor Fasli said:

I’m very excited to have this unique opportunity to use AI to improve the way health services are delivered in the area where I live and work.

The wider impact on the NHS of this project could be huge as the technological solutions we’ll be developing in partnership with Provide could eventually be rolled out to many other services and areas.

I am very pleased that a central part of this project will focus on helping staff to understand the technology and truly embed it into their everyday working lives. Getting everyone behind our innovative approaches will ensure we get the most from this project and really improve the patient experience.”

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