Advances in deep machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) means a lifetime of clinicians’ work can now be done in days, rather than decades.

A recent Lancet editorial pointed out that, “in the span of their professional lives a radiologist will read more than 10 million images, a dermatologist will analyse 200,000 skin lesions, and a pathologist will review nearly 100,000 specimens”.

In contrast, AI takes just 33 milliseconds to scan and diagnose an x-ray. Such a time saving will free up clinicians to get on with what they are good at – saving lives and treating patients – and it will also save healthcare organisations millions of pounds.

For instance, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) currently outsources the diagnosing of x-rays and images to several companies, who employ hundreds of people to pore over them and send them back, which can take a week or more.

Instead of hundreds, behold.AI – a deep-learning medical software company in trials with several NHS hospitals – employs four data scientists and diagnoses thousands of images every minute, giving doctors an instant diagnosis.

Moreover, if the trials succeed, this can be rapidly scaled across the whole NHS with the addition of only a handful of staff.

And this is just in radiology, AI technology can be applied across so many areas.

The NHS may have made unwelcome headlines by wasting at least £10 billion of taxpayers’ money when its National Programme for IT was abandoned in 2013, but its digital systems are a lot more connected and centralised today than many imagine or is seen in many other countries.

All this gives the NHS an advantage.

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