UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has made a pledge to revolutionise the delivery of healthcare, by challenging health charities, the NHS and artificial intelligence (AI) communities, to pool data and transform the diagnosis of disease. The aim is to prevent over 200,000 cancer-related deaths each year, by deploying AI-driven technologies by 2033.
The sentiment behind this rather pioneering statement may be sound, but the realities of artificial intelligence – and its applications in the current NHS – is a challenge the NHS is not quite ready to overcome. Enormous budgetary constraints, exasperated by Theresa May’s own party cutbacks alone, means that the health service is somewhat prevented from accessing this area of technological advancements.
What’s more, the sheer complexity of medical data – compounded by its fragmented and disparate states – means that there is no single system in the NHS that can collect, gather and analyse health data accurately or successfully. Before true digital progress can be made, medical health data needs to be standardised, interoperable and safely and securely integrated across the whole of the NHS. Without proper connectivity, an AI-driven health culture becomes impossible.
In her address, made in Macclesfield on Monday, Theresa May said:
The development of smart technologies to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease.
Achieving this mission will not only save thousands of lives. It will incubate a whole new industry around AI-in-healthcare, creating high-skilled science jobs across the country, drawing on existing centres of excellence in places like Edinburgh, Oxford and Leeds – and helping to grow new ones.
Smart technologies in the health sector
Evidence of mass innovation can currently be seen across the NHS. Our own work with NHS Code4Health, NHS Digital and The Apperta Foundation has revealed that smart technologies are in high demand, being used regularly by clinicians across the NHS. This only perpetuates the health service’s existing culture of siloed information that benefits only the trusts, hospitals and clinicians that use them – and not the NHS in its entirety.
As such, to truly benefit from the bountiful and transformative opportunities that artificial intelligence can bring to the NHS, the health sector needs to facilitate the creation of a single, overarching digital infrastructure, underpinned by the widespread deployment of connected smart devices.
Solving the NHS big data challenge with apps
Collaborating with NHS Digital again, and forging a new partnership with both OpenEHR and Inidus, we are hoping that a new iteration of the Nutshell App platform will mark the first step in the future of healthcare innovation.
Making the provision of data-driven apps even more attainable for the NHS, this new tool helps streamline, simplify and visualise complex medical data, and present it in a mobile app in less than a minute. Accessing the OpenEHR repository, uses can select which data they need and follow a few simple configuration options, and then deploy fully functional medical apps to the smart devices of entire teams in moments.
Not only does this address the challenges that have proven to be barriers to NHS digital reform so far, this new iteration of Nutshell Apps allows clinicians to securely access and visualise the extensive amounts of data available, to take app development into their own hands.
Supporting the Internet of Medical Things, connected devices and the provision of an integrated, monolithic healthcare data system for the NHS, Nutshell Apps are helping the health service save time and money, as well as giving clinicians access to the OpenEHR repository, and thus, the opportunity to begin the facilitation of a single NHS digital infrastructure sooner than anticipated.
If deployed across the NHS, the Nutshell App platform will allow the NHS make better use of their data, and adapt to the ever-changing pace of big data sooner, meaning that artificial intelligence could be a reality far sooner. However, if the NHS do not solve the problem of big data soon, an AI-driven health culture will remain an elusive pipe dream.