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AI project aims to deliver more accurate interventions for NHS patients

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A partnership between the University of Essex and Provide aims to improve the Uk's National Health Service (NHS) by implementing an AI-powered decision-making engine to determine the service a patient needs.

The Innovate UK-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will look at how artificial intelligence (AI) can help the NHS cope with the increasing demands of the 21st century.

John Niland, Chief Executive of Provide, said: ‘Our analysis shows that accurate classification and grouping of people enables more effective interventions, this can be achieved via non-face-to-face appointments such as Skype and online self-assessment and other self-assessment approaches. We’re excited to have this opportunity to use AI to determine the right approach for patients, deliver high levels of service and provide value for money.’

The initial trial will be based on Provide’s musculoskeletal services – for people with conditions affecting joints, muscles and other soft tissues – and, if successful, will be deployed further via a web-based platform across community and primary health care services, improving their efficiency and effectiveness and consistency in decision making – one of the greatest benefits of machine learning and AI.

Professor Maria Fasli, Director of the University’s Institute of Analytics and Data Science at and UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science, is the lead academic on this project and will drive the development of the AI-powered decision-making engine for Provide. 

Professor Fasli said: “I’m very excited to have this unique opportunity to use AI to improve the way health services are delivered in the area where I live and work.“The wider impact on the NHS of this project could be huge as the technological solutions we’ll be developing in partnership with Provide could eventually be rolled out to many other services and areas.

‘I am very pleased that a central part of this project will focus on helping staff to understand the technology and truly embed it into their everyday working lives. Getting everyone behind our innovative approaches will ensure we get the most from this project and really improve the patient experience’ Fasli added.

Clinicians currently assess people (known as clinical triage) over the phone for many services, such as adult therapy, stop smoking support and general practice in the NHS, with administrative staff manually booking appointments. The new partnership is set to improve the efficiency of this process by creating a decision-making engine, powered by AI, which will identify the type of service people need and then signpost them to the bespoke level of support they require.

The project will also enable psychologists at the University of Essex to gain a deeper understanding of potential barriers to the use of new technology, so clinicians will trust and embrace it, where safe and appropriate to do so, as an effective tool to improve how services are delivered to people.

By the end of the three-year project, clinicians will be able to target their interventions more accurately, as patients will be prioritised more effectively. Those who do not need on-going clinical support can be identified discharged and patients can self-manage remotely - promoting independence and tackling a significant challenge throughout the NHS.

Professor Riccardo Russo, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, said ‘I am excited about this project where scientists from different fields will work side by side to improve the quality of health services to be delivered to end users.’