The rise of technology within healthcare could save the NHS £12.5bn a year, according to a new report which predicts an Artificial Intelligence revolution.
Embracing ‘full automation’ could see tasks normally performed by GPs, surgeons, nurses and administration staff assigned instead to robots.
The report, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and former health minister Lord Darzi, says AI could be used to diagnose serious illness, improve bedside care and aid post operation recovery – including helping with exercise and administering of food and drink.
A patient arriving at a hospital, for example, may undergo a digital triage before they interact with a healthcare professional.
And paperwork – including the processing of prescriptions and appointments – could be taken to a new level using computer technology.
Diagnostic systems are likely to include machine-learning algorithms to give more in-depth and accurate diagnoses of cancers including breast and skin as well as eye diseases and heart conditions.
The report, commissioned as part of major research on how to make the NHS more sustainable, reads: “Given the scale of productivity savings required in health and care – and the shortage of frontline staff – automation presents a significant opportunity to improve both the efficiency and the quality of care in the NHS.”
If the advent of such technology might leave the NHS’ 1.3million workforce fearing for their jobs, the report suggests that such technology wouldn’t replace human care, but instead work side-by-side with it.
The report allays fears, saying: “Unlike many industries, where there are fears that automation will result in mass unemployment, in health and care automation will primarily complement human skills and talents, by reducing the burden of administrative tasks – communicating medical notes, booking appointments, processing prescriptions – whilst freeing up time for clinical decision making and caring.”