AI Centre Launch: Bringing AI into healthcare

DigitalHealth.London Communication Manager, Megan Truman, recently attended the AI Centre event “Launching AI platforms for the NHS: 2021-2023” to learn about the organisation’s goals for bringing AI into healthcare and what support is available for digital health innovators.

At DigitalHealth.London we have supported many Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies through our Accelerator programme – from Odin Vision who use AI to help doctors detect colorectal cancer, to Vantage Health whose AI platform helps clinicians direct patients to the best care.

The recently established London Medical Imaging & AI Centre for Value Based Healthcare works to discover, develop and deliver pioneering AI technology for the NHS. I attended their launch event in March to learn more about the tools and resources they have created to support innovation and to ultimately improve patient experience.

Bringing AI to the NHS

Reza Razavi, Director of the AI Centre, King’s College London Professor and Cardiologist, introduced the day with information about the centre and its goals. Their vision is to drive development and deployment of AI and advanced imaging into the NHS, transform health through personalised diagnostics and therapy, and drive economic benefit by delivering AI enabled value-based healthcare. Professor Razavi shared that utilising data and AI has the potential to reduce the cost of care by up to 50%. It can create better, cost-effective precision medicine for patients, save the NHS money and contribute to economic growth in the UK, as a growing part of the digital health sector.

Lord David Prior, Chairman of NHS England, laid out the NHS vision to use AI to improve personal and population health. He recognised that this would require a change in the way the NHS is led with a need for leaders who understand the power of digital and data as an intrinsic, fundamental part of how healthcare is delivered.

Dr Indra Joshi, Director of AI at NHSX, spoke about how the NHS AI Lab is helping the UK become a world leader in the development and use of AI-driven technologies to improve people’s health and wellbeing, delivering the most impactful technology to support our health and care system.

Professor Reza Razavi explained that AI Centre wants to work towards the linking data of several million patients to bring AI in healthcare to an unprecedented level. However, he recognised that there are several challenges which must be overcome for this to be possible – one of these was the challenge of providing the necessary training and support to upskilling NHS staff on the use and benefits of AI.

Creating an AI-ready workforce

Dr Nadine Hachach-Haram, Clinical Innovation Lead at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, led a discussion on the importance of upskilling NHS staff for AI. The discussion identified challenges around a current lack of education for NHS staff on the complexities of data and the problems that AI can solve, with speakers agreeing that all staff will need to be provided opportunities to upskill in AI and that this will need to be ongoing as it is a fast-moving field. Dr Natasha Curran of Health Innovation Network Need identified the need for creating a communications journey to help demystify AI for staff, increase awareness and build trust in this technology.

Professor Geraint Rees of University College London identified that there would be a need for new talent as well, with initiatives like the AI Centre marking the UK as a global leader in training a workforce of the future. Rees also suggested that the NHS should not attempt to do all training in house, instead assembling an ecosystem of people including universities and commercial sector resources too. Taking a staff-centred view of training was suggested, lowering barriers and allowing people to find the right way for themselves to gain skills. Dr Curran recognised the need for hybrid roles and the importance of programmes such as DigitalHealth.London’s Digital Pioneer Fellowship.

Sharing learning and tools

Professor Nicholas Ayache, Scientific Director “3IA Côte d’Azur” & Inria (France), led a discussion on the opportunities and challenges of deploying AI in a clinical setting. All the speakers agreed that the potential of AI is great, from improving diagnosis to removing repetitive tasks and improving resource management. Challenges such as curating data, security and practical implementation across organisations were identified with a clear conclusion that shared learnings and open-source tools will be vital.

Representatives from the AI Centre shared two pieces of open-source technology they have developed to enable NHS Trusts to test and deploy AI in clinical practice and share data in a way that is safe and secure:

Suitable data

The Federate Learning Interoperability Platform (FLIP) addresses the problem of health data not being suitable and accessible for AI applications. It helps link data from multiple NHS Trusts to enable AI at scale without removing it from the secure Trust Firewall. It uses algorithms and ontological and data interoperability standards to structure the data and make it actionable. FLIP will be deployed across seven NHS Trusts as part of the AI Centre’s projects and is expected to make a significant impact on the future success of implementing AI in NHS Trusts

Deployment capability

The second piece of technology which the AI Centre shared was AI Deployment Engine (AIDE), an intelligent tool that allows healthcare providers to deploy AI models safely, effectively and efficiently by enabling the integration of AI models into clinical workflows. AIDE connects any AI product to the entire patient record without requiring additional hardware or installation each time a new product is delivered into the clinical workflow. Once clinical data has been analysed by AI, the results are sent to the electronic patient record to support clinical processes, such as prioritising reporting or decision support. The platform receives a live stream of clinical data, allowing clinicians to access AI analysis within minutes of a scan being completed.

The importance of collaboration

A clear theme resonated throughout the event; the importance of working together. Whether it is through organisations collaborating to support the NHS workforce or the creation of open source technology, it is clear that collaboration, sharing learnings and bringing together key players will be vital for the successful use of AI in the NHS.

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Odin Vision and Vantage Health are currently on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme.

The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is a collaborative programme funded by London’s three Academic Health Science Networks – UCL Partners, Imperial College Health Partners, and the Health Innovation Network, MedCity, CW+ and receives match funding from the European Regional Development Fund.