The AIMed-NHS AI Lab virtual conference is taking place now. Indra Joshi, Director of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at NHSx, the digital unit of NHS, gave an overview of what the NHS AI lab had achieved since its launch last summer; its ongoing effort and what we can look out for in the very near future.

Joshi said when NHS decided to set up an AI lab, the 70-year-old public health system discovered that it is not just about technology, but also making sure getting the rules right; understanding the deployment process, and what to do with the data gathered to solve problems found both internally within the organization as well as on the frontline of delivering medical and healthcare services.

Review of the past year

She went on to talk about the NHS AI in Health and Care Awards and its first round of winners announced at the beginning of the month and the National COVID-19 Chest Imaging Database. Joshi said at the beginning of the pandemic, NHS was approached by many companies that wished to look at patients’ images to detect or underline the pathology. As such, they rapidly set up a central repository of chest images to better understand the novel coronavirus and facilitate research and development of AI technologies in the space.

At the same time, Joshi added the NHS AI lab also came across questions around the “AI adoption journey”, mainly the pathway leading to the deployment and evaluation of an AI model in the real-world. With that, over the past six months, the NHS had set up the AI Skunkworks, a relatively new, multidisciplinary team of data scientist, engineers, and curators to “support the health and care system to trial innovative ideas in AI”.

Joshi explained the AI Skunkworks will help the community to take their ideas from scratch to the “MVP level” and they have explored several ideas including synthetic data. In terms of regulations, Joshi said NHS has partnered regulators in England. Over here, the key focus is to ensure advice given to the community is innovative and the healthcare system is streamlined. Quite often, the community will have to go from department to department or organization after organization for permission and approval. So, Joshi believes that will be changed.

The very near future

That being said, the NHS will like to improve on “post-market surveillance”, that is once the product gets into the system, how will it be monitored and who will guarantee its safety throughout its life-cycle, especially if more novel AI and machine learning techniques are influencing a practice so close to life and death. Internationally, Joshi mentioned the NHS worked in partnership with the team developing CONSORT-AI, the new standards for clinical trials involving AI.

The NHS is also part of the Global Digital Partnership, a consortium constituting the World Health Organization (WHO) and government agencies aimed to outline standards and policy framework on different areas like interoperability, cybersecurity and so on. NHS will like to draft a White paper on AI policy and Joshi asks audience to keep an eye on this as the system will like to put it out to the community of practice as UK tries to champion the global market.

On a personal note, Joshi said all along she is excited about the launch of an actual physical space where people could come and interact, talk to experts, policymakers, and people who are building AI products. Nevertheless, the present circumstance pivoted to a virtual space. So, NHSx had partnered NHS England on a platform called NHS Futures to come up with a AI Virtual Hub, whereby people can get involved through discussion forums to share their knowledge and support the mission of “getting it right” to accelerate the deployment of safe, ethical and effective AI in healthcare.

In the coming months, the AI Virtual Hub will also be hosting conversations on the future rounds of the AI in Health and Care Award and explore popular use cases for AI. Please stay tune for more information on how AI and NHS are changing the realm of medicine and healthcare.


Author Bio

Hazel Tang A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.