This August, the UK government announced a £250 million boosts to set up a new National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory to tackle some of the more pressing challenges facing the NHS (National Health Service) including heart disease and dementia predictions, cancer screenings, and automation of administrative tasks.

Following which, a YouGov (i.e., a British internet-based market research and data analytics firm) poll commissioned by Sensyne Health was conducted and 1027 medical professionals (i.e., 768 NHS employees and 258 private practitioners) participated in the online survey. In general, healthcare workers are supportive of using anonymized data to develop new tools, as three-quarter of the respondents expressed it could promote quicker diagnoses and render better treatments for patients.

On the other hand, more than half believe insights driven by new technologies could help in reducing the workload of fellow physicians and nurses, so that they can spend more time with patients and financial burden on the NHS could be lowered in the long run. 76% said increased use of data-driven technologies, such as health applications or wearable devices, would enable patients to monitor their symptoms and conditions more effectively.

The lack of trust

In spite so, only 12% of the surveyed healthcare professionals are comfortable with the way multinational tech giants handle patients’ data and carry out respective analyses; while 17% trusted the way multinational tech giants would manage confidential data and privacy with care. In contrast, eight in ten participants think that UK has the domestic capabilities to develop domestic AI solutions and it is not necessary for them to outsource this to other countries or multinational companies.

At the same time, they also feel that the NHS should receive a legit amount of financial gains from new or subsequent medical discoveries, as 87% agreed that the UK government should ensure the NHS and taxpayers benefit from gains as a result of these data-driven technologies, analyses, and findings.

The survey results might have demonstrated healthcare community in the UK appears to be opened to the idea of using patients’ data for research and advancement and have a good understanding of the benefits that it will bring in terms of planning and delivering care. Nevertheless, the recent Project Nightingale incident, whereby millions of identifiable patient records were leaked in the US via Google cloud, had deeply affected the confidence of healthcare professionals towards the way tech giants are handling sensitive data.

The journey to go digital never stops

Yet, the journey to go digital hardly stops. On 18 December, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock introduced a new “digital aspirant” program for healthcare professionals to develop their core digital capacities required to provide efficient, safe and high-quality care. He made the announcement in his first key-note speech after the general election on 12 December.

Although no details were revealed on the program and the available funding provided for interested hospitals and individual professionals, Hancock said technology will make UK a “world leader” in life sciences as it will be used “on the frontline and also to advance the most cutting-edge techniques”.

Author Bio

Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.