During the coronavirus pandemic, the NHS has been placed under unprecedented strain. Not only has it needed to deal with an influx of patients suffering from the effects of a new, unknown virus, but it also needed to deal with its already vast waiting list alongside a reduction in staff numbers due to those who needed to be placed into self-isolation.
In this article, we look at what this means and how AI and robots are being used to overcome challenges.
As vaccines continue to roll out across the country, we can start to focus on a ‘new normal’ where covid-19 doesn’t control every aspect of our lives. But the impact that the pandemic has had on global health systems is sure to continue for years to come.
With a focus on overcoming the pandemic, non-essential visits to doctors’ surgeries and hospitals have widely been missed since the beginning of 2020. Although this may have been the best way to focus public resource on the problem at hand, it has resulted in record waiting lists for treatments.
Statistics suggest that the NHS waiting list is at a 14-year high, totalling 4.7 million people at the end of February 2021.
How AI can help
To tackle this challenge the government have announced that they will be setting up a £160 million initiative which will include funds for everything from 3D eye scanners to at-home antibiotic kits and ‘Super Saturday’ clinics.
As part of the plans, AI tools will be used to assess the data held on patients waiting for treatment. This will help to get those most in need seen quickly as the waiting list is worked through. This scheme will be used in Lancashire and South Cumbria for those waiting on non-urgent surgery.
Helping keep vulnerable individuals at home, Bristol will be issuing robots to elderly patients which can be used by consultants to make visual assessments without the need for potentially stressful journeys into the hospital.
In other regions, patients can be given the option of being assessed by AI. This would work by patients talking to an AI-driven chatbot which can then go on to refer them to a physiotherapist or mental health support.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Operating Officer said: “Early figures show local teams are already well ahead of schedule, but we want to go further, faster which is why we are investing £160 million to find new ways to tackle waiting lists.”