Amrita Kumar looks forward to the BIR and RCR AI conference taking place in London on March 17-18, and why all radiologists need to be familiar with AI in healthcare.

Congratulations on your new role as chair of the AI and Innovation Special Interest Group at the British Institute of Radiology! What are your main objectives for the group?

It is a great opportunity to chair this group when there is so much happening at the intersection between innovative health technologies and its implementation within the healthcare setting. This group has been set up to bring together all relevant stakeholders in the journey between the development and commercialisation of technology to its eventual implementation and adoption in clinical practice. Our main objective is to provide a stimulating forum for everyone working with and setting up innovative technology supporting clinical diagnostic and therapeutic practices, and disseminate our knowledge through national courses and webinars.

You have also led the development of the programme for the BIR and RCR joint AI conference taking place in London on 17 and 18 March, 2022. What are you most looking forward to about the event?

We have tried to bring together presentations of success in real life working with radiology AI, as well as the further steps and routes to adoption. Our contributors this year will share their experiences, tips and best practice in the implementation of AI.

We have held this event over two days to get an overview of the whole pathway of AI development to adoption, bringing together clinicians, industry, and multi-agency partners including NICE and NHS England. I am hopeful that all the sessions will appeal to our multidisciplinary audience.

We have spoken with you previously about your work as AI clinical lead at Frimley Health. What have been your key achievements to date?

It is exciting to be leading the AI projects at the Trust. We have set up an AI committee group with clear leadership aligned with our digital strategy and executive team, working alongside our Quality Improvement and Transformation teams to develop a strategic business model for AI implementation for competitive advantage and delivery of value-based healthcare. I am particularly grateful for the support of the Board that sees the value of setting this up.

I am a firm believer that this is the right time to invest in AI innovative technologies to transform healthcare in order to provide better healthcare delivery, improve patient health outcomes, and operational efficiencies.

What do you see as the biggest barriers to deployment of AI in healthcare?

There are many barriers to deployment, but for me the biggest challenge is the significant change in business and clinical processes, and helping all stakeholders get comfortable with a different way of making decisions. I think the main way we can address this is to educate all healthcare workers so that they are comfortable with assessing scope, potential changes and using evidence to weight up the need for using AI technology to address their clinical problem.

What advice would you give to a radiologist hoping to develop a career in medical AI?

I think all radiologists will need to be familiar with the use of AI in healthcare. There will always be hesitancy when looking towards new technologies, especially when prior technologies like CAD have not demonstrated the huge potentials that they claimed.

There are already a lot of online (free and paid) courses available for understanding and using AI in healthcare. I think it is important to be familiar with all the steps so that radiologists can make evidence-based decisions on the balance of efficacy, effectiveness, and implementation processes, as well as post-market surveillance processes. I think the most important point is to make sure that the technology will solve a relevant clinical problem so that it is worth the time and investment that will be needed initially to engage all the relevant stakeholders.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career?

My grandfather has been my biggest influence. He was a Professor of ENT Surgery from an impoverished part of India. He was recognised by the President of India for services that he provided in the clinical and healthcare technology space. He travelled to the UK and the USA to further his training in the 1950s and 1960s but went back to Bihar, India because he felt he could make a real difference to the people in raising the standard and technology access where there was none.

He has inspired me to develop my passion in my work, by providing balance with focus on personal goals and accomplishments alongside contributing to something bigger to help others.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Having navigated the structure and processes within the NHS when it comes to implementing innovation, I think the most helpful maxim has been to never accept defeat – “accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal”.

Amrita Kumar has recently been named 2020 Top 50 Innovator in the UK for leading innovation within the NHS, transforming healthcare and research with the use of AI technology. She was appointed as a substantive Consultant Radiologist at Frimley Health in 2013 with a subspecialist interest in breast cancer screening. 

She has a keen interest in artificial intelligence and has set up a trust-wide research collaboration to implement a digital enabled AI infrastructure, as well as implement novel AI software for improved detection of cancer.

Ultimately, her aim is to have a positive social impact on cancer screening policy and practice within the NHS integrated with AI, working in conjunction with various stakeholders with a mission statement of patient-focused healthcare. She has also been appointed at the British Institute of Radiology National Clinical Intelligence and Informatics Committee to look at the national integration and implementation of AI into clinical practice.

More information about the BIR and RBR AI conference can be found here.