The NHS can now access ‘pioneering’ AI stroke diagnosis software

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NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) has announced a procurement framework for “pioneering” AI software to diagnose strokes.

Breakthroughs in medical AIs are helping to reduce patient suffering, the likelihood and/or severity of long-term complications, and even save lives across a number of ailments.

Some of the benefits from medical AI breakthroughs are achieved through improved understanding leading to better treatment, while others are due to reducing the amount of time healthcare professionals have to spend on repetitive tasks.

Over 100,000 people in the UK suffer from a stroke per year; with over 32,000 deaths as a result. NHS SBS sought out how AI can help tackle one of the UK’s leading causes of death and disability.

Adam Nickerson, NHS SBS Senior Category Manager – Digital & IT, said:

“This use of AI is a prime example of how new technologies have the potential to transform NHS patient care, speeding up diagnosis and treatment times by ensuring that expert clinical resource is targeted where it has the greatest impact for the patient. 

By identifying areas in which technology can be used to help speed up patient pathways, clinicians have more time for providing personalised care and patient waiting lists – exacerbated by the pandemic, are reduced.

We have been pleased to work alongside some of the country’s leading tech minds, expert stroke clinicians, and policy leaders to develop this unique framework, which will go a long way to enabling more rapid uptake of Stroke AI software across the NHS.”

While AI can be a powerful tool in medicine, it can be difficult to ensure solutions are evidence-based and cost-effective. That’s where the new ‘Provision of AI Software in Neuroscience for Stroke Decision Making Support’ procurement framework comes in.

The framework was developed with contributions from across NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI), clinical leads from the 20 Integrated Stroke Delivery Networks across England, the Academic Health Science Network, and with further input from NHSX and the Care Quality Commission.

Darrien Bold, National Digital and AI Lead for Stroke at NHSEI, commented:

“We are already seeing the impact AI decision-support software is having on stroke pathways across the country, and the introduction of this framework will drive forward further progress in delivering best-practice care where rapid assessment and treatment are of the essence.

Over the past 18 months, the heath and care system has been compelled to look to new technologies to continue providing frontline care, and the stroke community has embraced new ways of working in times of unprecedented pressure.

This framework agreement will be of great benefit as we implement the NOSIP – driving better outcomes, better patient experience and better patient safety, using new technology quickly, safely and innovatively.”

Time is very much of the essence when it comes to strokes. The framework will enable the procurement of AI solutions that analyse images to detect ischaemic or haemorrhagic strokes and provide real-time interpretations to augment the review, diagnosis, and delivery of time-dependent treatments.

While manual review of imagery can take up to 30 minutes to interpret, AI is able to do so within seconds.

“Rapid brain imaging and its interpretation is arguably one of the most important steps in the care of patients with stroke-like symptoms,” commented Dr David Hargroves, Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) Clinical Lead for Stroke and National Specialty Advisor for Stroke Medicine at NHSEI.

“Incorporating AI decision support software is likely to improve access to disability-saving interventions to thousands of patients. This framework agreement supplies a valuable platform to support providers of hyperacute stroke care in the purchase of AI software.”

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the health service aims to achieve a tenfold increase in the proportion of stroke victims who receive a thrombectomy by 2022—estimated to enable around 1,600 more patients per year to live independently.

AI will be key to achieving the NHS’ long-term goals across care for stroke patients and more. We look forward to seeing all the ways health services around the world put AI to good use over the coming years to improve patient outcomes.

(Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash)

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