Thinking on its own: AI in healthcare

11 January 2018

One of the priorities of the Science and Technology Committee, which I have the privilege of chairing, is to ensure that society benefits from the immense opportunities presented by new technology. Scientific discovery and innovation offer hope of more effective public services, better quality of life, and high-value jobs, and nowhere are these benefits more evident than in the emerging revolution in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The new Industrial Strategy sets out to put the UK at the forefront of innovation in AI, but to do this we must embrace the revolutionary potential of AI, algorithms and data in healthcare. We are on the brink of a major transformation in the way we diagnose, treat, and even prevent ill health. Whether it is wearable devices, AI surgical robots, or AI algorithms that can detect certain conditions with unprecedented speed and accuracy, these advances have the potential to propel the health and social care system into the 21st century – improving care both in the hospital and at home, and making much more efficient use of resources.

However, the Government has much to do to create the right conditions for AI to be fully harnessed in the NHS. The previous Committee’s Robotics and artificial intelligence report highlighted the great potential of AI in healthcare, but also some of the challenges surrounding data and the key issue of consent.

More recently, the Committee has been examining the increased use of algorithms in decision-making, both in the public and business sphere. It launched an inquiry that aims to understand how they are created, the scope for unwanted bias and the impact they may have on individuals. There is still more to do for AI to win the hearts of all healthcare professionals, and these are just some of the issues that will occupy policymakers in the years ahead.

On that basis, I am delighted Reform has researched how AI could help the NHS deliver its service transformation plans, as well as the challenges that will need to be addressed to make this a reality. Infrastructure for collecting, sharing and accessing data need to be improved. Resolving the ethical questions surrounding AI in healthcare settings will be crucial, including setting the right regulatory framework.

I am pleased to see this report building on some of the recent policy developments around the life sciences and the industrial strategy, to provide some tangible solutions to these problems. The Science and Technology Committee recognises the important work of academics and think tanks to provide robust analysis, challenge government, and offer new and forward-thinking ideas. I hope that the insights and recommendations of this report will be of value to policymakers and to those tasked with driving innovation in technology and healthcare.

The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, Chair, Science and Technology Committee

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