Skip to main content

Lawyer explores use of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare: Is it a helping hand or a cause for concern?

Harrogate District Hospital has recently revealed it's using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to speed up fracture diagnosis times, by allowing for quicker access to diagnosis and treatment. It's the first in the Yorkshire region to introduce the software. 

Currently, interpreting and providing the results of X-ray scans can take hours or days, whereas Harrogate District Hospital has said with the new AI software, X-ray scans can be interpreted in about 30 seconds. It analyses the images and provides an interpretation to the treating team right away, as opposed to waiting 24 to 48 hours for a radiologist to review the imaging. 

It's part of a wider plan for the technology to be introduced by other NHS Trusts in Leeds, Calderdale and Huddersfield, Airedale, Mid Yorkshire and Bradford.

Advantages of using AI in healthcare settings

Over the past few years, we've seen AI in varying forms and degrees being introduced in healthcare settings. The hope is that the use of AI technology will provide faster results, and patients will in turn be able to access treatment quicker. This will help promote patient care and safety and improve patients’ quality of life. 

In a recent pilot of an AI tool tested by the NHS, the mammograms of over 10,000 women were analysed by both AI and NHS clinicians. The AI technology successfully flagged all the women with symptoms of breast cancer, as well as an extra 11 which the doctors did not identify. At the earliest stages, cancers can be extremely small and hard to spot and can sometimes present as practically invisible to the human eye. Without the assistance of AI, cancers may not be detected until symptoms develop and the tumours grow, by which point prognosis and treatment options could be worse. 

Can it help diagnose breast cancer earlier?

In my work as a medical negligence lawyer, I've come across cases involving delays in diagnosis of breast cancer. Some of these failures include failing to detect abnormalities on scans, as well as scans being misread and incorrectly reported. This recent pilot is therefore promising in ensuring breast cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, when treatment is more likely to be effective. 

I've seen first-hand how lengthy waiting times and delays can impact on patient safety and act as a barrier in patients accessing the treatment they need. The safe and effective implementation of AI in a healthcare setting would help speed up the time to diagnose and ensure patients who need treatment receive it quickly. 

Human involvement must remain for patient safety

Despite the benefits of AI technology, human interpretation and involvement will arguably always be needed to promote patient safety and ensure AI is being used in a useful and safe way. AI technology does not know the history of a patient, the background of an illness or the injury a patient has presented with. It seems that human expertise and involvement must remain in place for the responsible, safe and effective implementation of AI in healthcare. 

The results of AI involvement in healthcare are promising and the hope is that a clinical radiologist using insights from validated AI tools will improve patient care and safety. Technological improvement and innovation are vital to help improve NHS services, but the involvement of clinicians will remain important.

I've supported many clients who've experienced a delay in diagnosis of many different conditions, including breast cancer, as well as delays in receiving appropriate treatment. If you believe you or a loved one has not received appropriate treatment, or have concerns about a delay in diagnosis, you can speak to our specialist team, and we will be able to advise whether you have a claim for compensation. 

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in handling medical negligence cases at the dedicated section on our website.

"I think the AI will get more accurate and we will probably place a higher dependence on it, but we are always going to need human interpretation." Dr Fascia”