Speeding up the NHS AI journey

By Steve Brain | 02 December 2020

AI is often portrayed in the media as having the potential to become an intrusive ‘big brother’ technology. But this scaremongering is often misplaced. AI has the ability to completely transform the way organisations operate and streamline and enhance the offering provided to citizens.

However, while big tech organisations continue to make breakthroughs in the use of AI, it must be made clear that its use does not need to be all-singing, all-dancing. In fact, many of us interact with AI daily, without even knowing it.

The important thing for NHS leaders to remember is that small steps can be taken to ease their AI journey. Here are three tips to start achieving value through AI.

1. Drive a culture of innovation: With reduced budgets and smaller teams, some public service organisations are still looking at AI as a technical advancement instead of an organisational initiative. AI implementation and an organisation’s digital transformation strategy is not just another task for IT. To be successful, the whole organisation must be on board.

2. Manage employee apprehension to new technologies: Key to building this culture is leaders who are transparent in their plans to adopt new technologies and continuously communicate with employees about the benefits. Once people see they can move one step at a time, the overall task will seem less scary.

3. Use AI to deliver better outcomes, faster: The first question leaders should consider is ‘what’s the problem we’re trying to solve and how big is it?’ AI must be used to improve and enhance citizen service. For example, take Aurum, our new AI platform recently piloted with six NHS trusts. The platform uses the latest data science techniques to quickly find instances of systemic variation in clinical activity, helping identify millions of pounds of service improvement opportunities. Aurum is saving NHS Trusts time and money, but ultimately improving patient outcomes, at a critical time when health services are being stretched like never before.

Understanding the need to drive AI innovation throughout the public sector, Civica launched its new NorthStar innovation lab earlier this year to develop innovative ideas focused around automation and advanced technologies. Our new AI platform is the first of many products to be developed in the labs and has already shown that AI is pivotal to helping the NHS innovate and continue delivering world-class healthcare.

In the short-term, AI could mitigate existing shortcomings and help the NHS get through this time of immense pressure, while in the long term, the technology will develop more safe, interactive, exciting and efficient public services which work for everyone’s future.

Steve Brain, Executive Director, Health & Care, Civica


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