Artificial intelligence 'to diagnose heart disease'

Telegraph Reporters
Researchers believe AI could provide early diagnosis for heart disease - Heathcliff O'Malley

Artificial intelligence that can diagnose scans for heart disease and lung cancer could be used by the NHS this year.

Researchers at an Oxford hospital developed a system that they claim could save billions of pounds by enabling the diseases to be picked up much earlier.

The heart disease technology will start to be available to NHS hospitals for free this summer.

Geneticist Sir John Bell, told BBC News that AI could "save the NHS".

"There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS. You may be able to reduce that by 50 per cent. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS," he said.

Cardiologists currently diagnose problems by monitoring the timing of the heartbeat in scans but are not always accurate, with one in five patients either suffering a heart attack or undergoing an unnecessary operation.

The AI system developed at the John Radcliffe Hospital is said to diagnose heart scans much more accurately by picking up details that doctors cannot see.

The technology has been tested in clinical trials in six cardiology units, with the results due to be published this year.

Researchers believe AI could provide early diagnosis for heart disease

But Prof Paul Leeson, a cardiologist who developed the system, said data indicates that it had greatly outperformed his fellow heart specialists.

Called Ultromics, it was trained to identify potential problems in the scans of 1,000 patients treated over the past seven years, along with information about whether they went on to have heart problems.

"As cardiologists, we accept that we don't always get it right at the moment,” Prof Leeson said.

“But now there is a possibility that way may be able to do better."

If confirmed, it will be available for free to NHS hospitals across the country,

Prof Sir Malcolm Grant, the chairman of NHS England, said in 2015 that artificial intelligence would bring NHS patients a greater quality of care by better diagnosing medical conditions and personalising treatment.

He said the health service would benefit hugely from the use of machine learning and robots, suggesting that if such technology could outperform humans, it would be "daft" not to use it.

He acknowledged that the subject was "fraught with ethical issues" but suggested that the medical profession needed to be "more focused" in the way that it used treatments.

Of 60,000 heart scans carried out each year, 12,000 are reportedly misdiagnosed at an estimated cost of £600million.

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