The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Heart and Circulatory Diseases creates a platform for UK’s parliamentarians to work with organizations, professionals, and patients to enhance the outcomes of those who are living with heart and circulatory conditions in the country. APPG is administratively supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and they also work together to raise public awareness.

Yesterday (1 May), APPG released a new report, “Putting patients at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI)”, which captures opinions on the use of AI in healthcare. Part of the report comprises of literature review and two rounds of roundtable discussions with patients, policymakers, cardiologists, researchers and industry representatives on the opportunities and challenges of using AI in healthcare. The other part details the results of a survey of people with heart and circulatory diseases. 

What has been found? 

APPG believes AI bears a huge potential to transform the lives of those who are living with heart and circulatory conditions. Specifically, AI facilitates the prediction of risks in patients and assists doctors to provide better target treatments. On the other hand, patients could use wearable devices and sensors to better manage their conditions at home or within the community rather than in the hospital. 

Of all the 128 surveyed patients, 85% supported the use of AI in diagnostics and treatment. 91% of them thought the public should be informed about the use of AI. However, only 17% of the respondents are aware of any current uses of AI in the diagnosis and treatment of heart and circulatory diseases. As one patient reflected in the report, “I’m not sure the general public know that much about AI, personally. My fear is that the perception is that it is all to do with robots, which I’ve heard many times. I really don’t think the message has got anywhere near out there yet”. 

As such, APPG feels it is crucial to include affected individuals in the discussions about the developments and adoptions of these new technologies. It recommends the National Health Service (NHS), policymakers, industry, and healthcare professionals to engage and involve patients in the design, development, and diffusion of AI. Failure to do so may not reflect the needs of the very people who will eventually benefit from AI. 

The key recommendations 

APPG urges NHSX, a newly established unit to head the digital strategies of NHS and Understanding Patient Data (UPD), part of the research charity Wellcome Trust, which aims to inform the public how health data is being used, to collaborate with other organizations and the public to address the concerns patients have with regards to AI in healthcare. 

APPG hopes to understand patients’ needs in information sharing and to develop ways that effectively transfer information between patients and policymakers. They also wish to provide the public with relevant resources on how to engage with AI. At the same time, APPG encourages an active exchange of innovations so that new developments from emerging technologies are able to be shared with patients and industry partners are able to will be provided with feedback for more targeted and efficient solutions. 

NHS will continue to play a centralized role to explore the impacts of new technologies and AI on health inequalities. AI policy should be designed with an explicit purpose to understand, promote and protect the interests of public. They should also be clearly and openly communicated. Last but not least, NHS is recommended to generate new standards for AI research, to render trustworthy guidelines for the public, researchers and the media. 

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Hazel Tang

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