back to article Think tank: Never mind WannaCry, update NHS IT systems for RoboDoc

The Reform think tank has told the UK government to improve the quality of NHS data and stop relying on paper-based systems to take advantage of the purported benefits of artificial intelligence. In its report (PDF) Thinking on its own: AI in the NHS, published today, the think tank argued that AI has the power to speed the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once every NHS computer is off WinXP we can talk about "AI", until then.....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Generally the risk is not the startup in Shoreditch, its NHS Digital in Leeds.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No thanks

    AI, yeah that's a great idea. What's it going to work with? NHS data? Right well there's the problem. How do we supply it with good quality data when for the past 50 years A&E doctors have been drawing pictures rather than writing down diagnoses (because it's actually just as effective for them to do this), when we have manually inputted data which isn't correct but AI won't know that. when we have massive privacy concerns which continually are proven correct when we involve private firms in the handling of NHS data year on year.

    Great in theory but only private firms and their shills are super keen on sharing patient data with them, the sane amongst us know it'll be in the hands of insurance firms, big pharma etc within minutes.

    1. Gordon 10

      Re: No thanks

      I agree - the only reason someone would be writing a report to say that AI is the solution to the NHS's problems is if they are either flogging AI "services" themselves, being paid to shill for someone who does, or delusional "digital strategists" from VC-land or Shoreditch with a whiff of Bong! about them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This AI hype is a crock of sh*t and if it wasn't so tragic it would be funny. This looks like another way to siphon money and data out of the NHS and into the hands of private companies.

    This doesn't need "AI", categorise every condition, illness and measurement taken from patient in tests. Pick a condition and correlate the data to find indicators, once you have indicators apply them to the rest of the data to confirm who is at risk of developing the condition and treat as needed. It's the same as the "are you at risk of heart disease?" questionnaire the doctors asks, uses a points based system. What is AI going to do? Sure you could feed a massive amount of data and it may give you some results but it's like using a hammer to put a tack on the wall. Furthermore the data itself is going to be crap so you won't be able to do either method anyway till it's corrected.

    Really grinds my goat what these people are doing to the NHS.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Algorithmic Artificial Intelligence Hyperbolic Baloney

    Or AAIHB for short .. seem like a lot of people think they can make money out of the AI bandwagon.

    'firms unfamiliar with the NHS's unique brand of organisation find it an "unfathomable task" to make it through the quagmire of unlinked data'

    How about the NHS form a single centralized organization tasked with providing all technology solutions across the entire NHS. This organization would source the hardware and software from a number of suppliers, then test and deploy the solutions across the NHS.

    "for instance those on low incomes that have less frequent interaction with the NHS"

    I thought the NHS was designed to provide health care to those specifically on low incomes, when did that change?

    "If industry is to use NHS data to design AI, as it does now, the NHS should make sure that it can reap the benefits in the long term," the report said. "Government should explore mutually beneficial arrangements such as profit and risk-sharing agreements."

    Ah so, yet another strategy to hive off the most profitable parts of the NHS, and get the tax payers to finance it. Leaving the NHS a gutted shell occupied by various out-sourced private companies.

    1. Adrian Midgley 1

      Re: Algorithmic Artificial Intelligence Hyperbolic Baloney

      "I thought the NHS was designed to provide health care to those specifically on low incomes, when did that change?"

      You thought wrong.

  6. jigr1969

    Having worked in a company dealing with NHS data, it is amazing at how bad the quality of data is. Each and every visit/treatment is coded electronically by a band of people, to form spells and episodes. It is amazing at how many males actually give birth, as an example of rubbish data.

    When my doctor cannot communicate electronically, using the internet, with a hospital less than 8 miles away, then you know there's a fundamental problem. (The communication which does take place is via fax machine of all things.) This is a Northamptonshire based doctor, sending me to a Warwickshire based trust. Both being referred and the results, had to travel across the good old telephone lines!

  7. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The NHS needs to move away from paper-based systems

    The WannaCry debacle suggests the opposite to me.

    If the various outpatients clinics and operating theatres had printouts of their schedules for the next few days, most of them would - in conjunction with their paper medical records - have been able to continue to function, at least until the inability to make fresh appointments deprived them of work - probably about 3 months at the current rate of referrals...

    Most of the work of the NHS is extremely mundane. There are cases of complex diseases or difficult-to-intepret diagnostics where AI may be of some benefit, but they're the exception rather than the rule.

  8. 0laf


    Typical C-level / vendor response. Never minds the basics look at the shiny.

    I think the NHS needs to get its shit together on its IT foundations before getting hot and wet over bleeding edge AI and robotics. Or it'll probably end up as a literal bleeding edge when the AI isn't patched and they have to pay some Russians 3 bitcoins to decrypt it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Facepalm

      "I think the NHS needs to get its shit together on its IT foundations before getting hot and wet over bleeding edge AI and robotics."

      And by the time that happens there'll be AI that actually works.

  9. Mage

    Advances in AI?

    Oh you mean monetisation of patient data by Google and sale of Fake Snake Oil by a super "Intelligent" shade of Blue Marketing?

    I've not noticed anything except advances in advertising AI.

  10. Mage

    Garbage In Garbage Out

    Apart from the quality (and morality) of the data to "train" the AI, isn't it just more privatisation by stealth?

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    ""for the ethical and safe applications of AI in the NHS"."

    Does that not require companies to give a s**t about patient safety and ethics to begin with?

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