Can AI help put people firmly at the centre of their care?

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The website averaged over 2,000 visitors per minute in 2022 and, while websites are hardly considered cutting edge, this technology is important to help make trusted and reliable health and care knowledge easily accessible to patients and the public. Web-based information, alongside access to medical records and personalised care initiatives, means people are potentially more informed to make decisions and be actively involved in their own care. 

Up to 61 per cent of adults have low health literacy levels which means they may not be able to understand or use the information available to them.

However simply having access to information doesn’t necessarily make it useable. Health literacy refers to the skills, knowledge and confidence to understand and use health care information. Up to 61 per cent of adults have low health literacy levels which means they may not be able to understand or use the information available to them. This can impact people’s capability to have shared responsibility for their health, resulting in a lack of independence and autonomy and an overdependency on services. It’s difficult to measure the financial impact of low health literacy on a health care system, but some estimates put it at 3–5 per cent of health budgets. With the well-established increase in long-term health conditions and an ageing population, ensuring people are supported to have the knowledge, skills and expertise to manage their own health and care is a powerful way of alleviating some of the pressure on the system while ensuring people are at the centre of their care. 

Technology has already made health information more accessible, but now it can potentially go further to help those with low health literacy. The latest development in AI is a classification of tools called large language models (for example Chat GPT). These tools have the potential to make health and care information more personalised, understandable and actionable This supports patients to have greater understanding of their health conditions, have greater control over their health and care and be more confident and informed to take the steps they choose to in order to take care of themselves.  

The enthusiasm for large language models is unprecedented – they are one of the most rapidly adopted technologies to date. Once you try using these tools the glimpses of potential are incredible. Recent research demonstrated that it’s possible to use these technologies to re-write medical consent information to a reading age of 13 from a university-educated level starting point while still keeping all the essential information. 

There’s also potential to be able to use an individual’s medical records to identify the most relevant self-care information which can then be re-written to be more accessible using AI.

This powerful technology has the potential to provide individuals with tailored health information based on public and trusted sources at a literacy level that matches their capabilities, empowering them in their own care. There’s also potential to be able to use an individual’s medical records to identify the most relevant self-care information which can then be re-written to be more accessible using AI. But it doesn’t need to stop there. Large language models create text but are part of a broader category called generative AI – which includes AI that can create new images, audio and video. So, it is potentially possible to go one step further and generate tailored content in multiple different formats, like animations or audio information, by linking several different AI tools together. All this could reduce the literacy and numeracy barriers to self-care but to do so requires collective action by NHS leaders working with patients, staff and innovators to set a vision and direction in using AI to improve patient empowerment. 

This is a new technology and there’s no shortage of potential hurdles that need to be mitigated, including development and regulation. AI like large language models can – and do – make things up, so having the right processes and improvement mechanisms in place is essential. The difference between reconstituting public information and clinical guidance has to be clear as the commonly used large language models are an unregulated consumer technology, not a medical device. These tools also share information with their supplier which could create significant privacy concerns. So NHS leadership, regulators and innovators need to come together with staff and patients to co-develop these technologies further, protect privacy and ensure acceptable clinical safety with patient benefit. 

The potential for significant improvements to health and care service delivery through the latest AI developments is just one side of the equation. We shouldn’t overlook the potential for AI technologies to ensure people are at the centre of health and care services, with greater control of their care and are more empowered to self-care. Yes, these tools may improve how clinical services are delivered but a greater shift could be brought about if they are designed and developed so people are more in control of their own health, wellbeing and self-care.

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Noris Rosario

Managing Director,
Eco-Humantropolis Clean Energy Exchange Ltd
Comment date
08 October 2023

I am writing to address a pressing issue within the NHS that warrants immediate attention and AI innovative solutions in the following areas. The core challenge we face lies in the lack of seamless communication among different NHS trusts, Pharmaceuticals, Healthcare Regulators and a concern that has far-reaching implications for patient safety and care quality. While the AI initiative represents a step in the right direction, its success and my association hinges on addressing these foundational elements. Only when understanding, acceptance, and respect are firmly in place can we truly harness the potential of my support, AI, and other technologies to transform healthcare for the better.

In the unfortunate event of an accident involving a patient with specific allergies, medical conditions, autoimmune response, or critical NHS information, our current system's limitations have become evident. Without readily accessible patient data or identifiers, healthcare providers may find themselves ill-equipped to administer the correct drugs or treatments, potentially exacerbating the situation.

To rectify this issue and enhance patient safety using AI, we propose a multifaceted approach that leverages the capabilities of (AI) where applicable. Patient safety should not solely depend on individuals wearing identification; rather, we advocate for proactive incident prevention measures reporting prior to drug administration.

AI, when effectively integrated within the NHS and pharmaceutical facilities, can revolutionise pharmacovigilance, streamlining communication channels between consultants and medical practitioners. By disseminating knowledge and insights, AI empowers healthcare professionals to make informed decisions about treatment strategies.

Moreover, it is imperative to address the unique challenges posed by critically ill patients, including those afflicted with neurological disorders, debilitating conditions, autoimmune responses, stroke, as well as vulnerable demographics such as the elderly and young individuals. These individuals often face the predicament of being unable to communicate their side effects, adverse reactions, or complications accurately, which can sometimes be mistaken for underlying medical conditions AI can provide clarity.

AI technologies serve as a pivotal tool in formulating robust clinical procedures. They are instrumental in not only facilitating the early detection and diagnosis of side effects, adverse reactions, and potential disease-forming conditions but also in ensuring the protection of patients who may be susceptible to such challenges.

Drawing from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the virus could manifest asymptomatically or with mild symptoms, it becomes evident that similar dynamics apply to clinical side effects and adverse reactions. Many of these issues often go unnoticed until they manifest as overt disease symptoms. Recognising the subtleties and nuances in patient responses to treatments is paramount in delivering comprehensive and effective healthcare. In essence, neglecting the care of society's most vulnerable, including patients, has far-reaching consequences that affect us all. When healthcare is conflated with economic growth strategies, it can ultimately undermine both, resulting in counterproductive effects on our collective well-being and economic prosperity.

It is crucial to acknowledge that the administration of pharmaceutical drugs should not be undertaken blindly by medical and clinical practitioners. In the attempt to mitigate the evolving animal and human AMR health deterioration crises, Healthcare providers must possess comprehensive knowledge of Microbiology, and Bacteriology Sciences, and the intricate interplay between drugs and the human body this is where AI could play a key role. Just as a chef creates a dish with a thorough understanding of each ingredient, doctors and consultants should administer pharmaceutical drugs with a profound grasp of their mechanisms and potential interactions with patients.

Regrettably, the healthcare landscape within the NHS and WHO's has become increasingly commercialised, with a predominant focus on economic growth and clinical trials, or experimentation. This transformation has inadvertently cast the UK public as unwitting guinea pig subjects in a global healthcare clinical trials, compromising patient care, increasing the risk of (AMR), exposing us to new diseases, and undermining pandemic preventive measures.

In conclusion, it is imperative that we shift our focus back to patient-centric care, ensuring that the NHS remains a beacon of healthcare excellence. AI, as an enabler of knowledge-driven decision-making and enhanced patient safety, should be harnessed to address the systemic issues within our healthcare system transparently.

We appreciate your consideration of these concerns and stand ready to collaborate on innovative solutions that prioritise patient care and well-being above all else.

Gio C

Customer Support,
Comment date
02 September 2023

IA could help and improve certain things within our current NHS Health System. The NHS problem is that all the different trusts do not communicate with each other, which is a significant concern.

If one were to be involved in an accident and have certain allergies etc, or medical conditions, unless that person is wearing something to specify this, then the trust would have no way of determining what drugs (if required), to give this person, and if they could help or make things worse.

Time is of the essence during a medical emergency and a medical team having this information to hand would be extremely beneficial.

So, even though AI can help in many ways, our NHS systems are still quite backwards when it comes to gaining access to this sort of information.

My Medical Choice did create a system that can help with this, including LPAs (Lasting Power of Attorney) and ADN (Advanced Decision Notice), but the thing is, if the current system truly wanted to help people, then this would have been a standard part of it.

Ruby Baker

Comment date
18 August 2023

I agree we need more technology in the NHS but have concerns that you cannot replace GPs with AI. Yes AI can assist but there is no way the AI can have all the knowledge and experience of the patient plus the visual and touch required. Each patient is unique and until AI can use the patients records/history we can never have a true AI system. The cost of entering current records would not work but we can put in place the building blocks for the future. How a hospital doctor is expected to read a thick patients file I never have understood, they do not have time the same as GPs. The data security would also be a problem given recent ransom attacks.

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