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Blogger series graphic showing a doctor using HoloLens. Technology is changing so quickly. Since joining Microsoft four years ago, I’ve seen it grown so much – not just in business, either. I often get asked the same question by nurses and clinicians: “What does Microsoft do in healthcare?”

I saw it in action at Future Decoded, standing side-by-side with our NHS customers. We share a common goal: putting the patient at the centre of what we do. We also want to empower employees to completely transform the way care is delivered and managed.

Two women standing in front of a health stand at 2018 Future Decoded

43 percent of healthcare employees are sceptical about the use of AI in healthcare. But used correctly, it can improve patient care, accessibility, and make it easier for employees to do their work.

“AI will have a big impact on healthcare, which affects everyone. Costs in the sector are growing, so the positive potential for introducing AI is huge,” says Chris Bishop, Microsoft Research Cambridge Labs Director. “There are so many opportunities and it doesn’t have to be big or complex; it can be as simple as gathering data.”

AI technology being used to help doctors better visualize conditions such as cancer for improved treatment.

Start small

Implementing change in healthcare can seem quite daunting. Neil Sebire, Consultant Pathologist, Chief Research Information Officer and Director of DRIVE at Great Ormond Street Hospital sums it up pretty well: “You can’t shut the hospital to replace all your technology. It’s like saying to someone we need you to change the engine in this aeroplane, but we can’t land.”

To create this change, start small. How much time are your practitioners spending on backend work that can be automated?

At the Future Decoded AI in Healthcare panel, Thoughtonomy Head of Public Sector, Phil Sheen talked about automation. “Look at areas within the organisation that require little cognitive process,” he says. “It helps overcome cultural barriers and demystifies AI.”

Implementing automation at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust showed how AI can support clinical and operational workers in healthcare. Within the first three months over 500 hours of medical securities’ time was saved, and they’re expected to save over £200,000 by July 2019.

AI for accessibility

AI also can aid accessibility in healthcare. The NHS has an accessibility standard built into it, which essentially says that all patients have the same right to access information that anyone else would have. Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services allow NHS Trusts to make their own data and patient information more accessible. Seeing AI, an app developed by Microsoft aids people who are vision impaired with their day-to-day lives.

Hector Minto, Technical Evangelist at Microsoft explained the relevance of this technology for healthcare. “Seeing AI could read prescription data for a patient, recognise carers, and read bar codes to identify the correct medication. All the individual channels used in the app are simply bits of code that can be used by developers to deliver accessible experiences for people with disabilities in healthcare. This is an invitation for people to look at AI and how they would like to use it to improve the patient experience, including employees with disabilities within the NHS.”

The power of data

AI in health panel at 2018 Future DecodedAlso at the AI in Healthcare panel were Emily Crossley, co-founder at Duchenne UK and Dr Elin Haf Davies, founder of Aparito.

“In today’s world we’re always talking about personalised medicine. But nobody is really talking about or investing in how we’re going to do the personalised monitoring that will allow us to actually get towards that,” explains Haf Davies.

They discussed their mission to have patients and their families use a phone-based app to provide information about themselves and when they take medication.

“Patient generated data is all the data a patient can share with us between hospital visits. We know that hospital-based appointments only capture 1-3 percent of a patient’s experience. Therefore, there’s a huge amount of data, experience, and a journey that patients go through that we don’t even capture. Our technology has been designed to fill that gap and develop what we call digital biomarkers.”

This data, along with data collected from wearables, will power clinical research and inform clinicians about what’s happening to the patient.

It’s clear to see how, when done right, AI can make positive changes to the way healthcare is provided.

Microsoft has been working with Leeds Teaching Hospitals on their bid to expand a digital pathology and AI programme across the North of England as an exemplar for the NHS. In the days following Future Decoded, we were delighted to find out that the bid was successful. As a result they’ve been awarded a £10.1m investment from UK Research and Innovation. The successful partnership bid embraces a network of nine NHS hospitals, seven universities, and 10 industry-leading medical technology companies, including Microsoft.

It will be fascinating to see this project unfold, and I look forward to revealing more moving forward.

Find out more

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See some of the other ways we’re improving lives with technology

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Kelly Limonte headshotAbout the author

Kelly is the Healthcare Industry Manager at Microsoft UK, working with transformational digital partners and NHS customers to pilot solutions for collaborative working and empowering everyone to do more. She has 15 years’ experience working alongside the NHS, and is passionate about the power technology has to create positive change in healthcare.