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PostPosted: 01 Oct 2018 20:46 
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A new report suggested that machines could take on many jobs from diagnosis to recovery in a busy hospital.

The NHS in UK is under tremendous pressure from a number of fronts. Firstly the cost of funding the NHS is spiralling out of control at the moment. Secondly even if funding is not a problem staffing the hospital is becoming a serious problem. They are unable to fill a large number of jobs from nurses to doctors. With this in view much research is in progress to find a solution. One of the research is in the field of artificial intelligence.

It is suggested that robots could soon help hospital patients eat their meals, diagnose serious illnesses and even help people recover from operations. Machines could take over a wide range of tasks currently done by doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and administrative staff, according to a leading thinktank.

Widespread adoption of AI and the NHS embracing “full automation” could free up as much as £12.5bn a year worth of staff time for them to spend interacting with patients.

“Given the scale of productivity savings required in health and care – and the shortage of frontline staff – automation presents a significant opportunity to improve both the efficiency and the quality of care in the NHS,” says a new report released in June by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Lord Darzi, the eminent surgeon and ex-health minister.

“Bedside robots” could help patients consume food and drink and move around their ward, and even help with exercises as part of their rehabilitation from surgery, it says. In addition, “someone arriving at hospital may begin by undergoing digital triage in an automated assessment suite. AI-based systems, include machine-learning algorithms, would be used to make more accurate diagnoses of diseases such as pneumonia, breast and skin cancers, eye diseases and heart conditions.”

Digital technology could also take over the communication of patients’ notes, booking of appointments and processing of prescriptions.

The report, part of a major piece of research into how to make the NHS sustainable states: “Unlike many industries, where there are fears that automation will result in mass unemployment, in health and care automation will primarily complement human skills and talents, by reducing the burden of administrative tasks – communicating medical notes, booking appointments, processing prescriptions – whilst freeing up time for clinical decision making and caring.”

However some of the administrators are not totally convinced that AI could take over many of the routine tasks done by nurses and other staff.

“It is realistic that significant elements of patient care could be improved by robotics and artificial intelligence. However we must never forget the fundamental importance of human care, compassion, empathy and even the importance of a gentle, physical, human touch. For it to be welcome health services will have to sensitively blend new technologies with old-fashioned care,” said Andrew Foster, chief executive of the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS trust, who was also the Department of Health’s director of human resources for the NHS from 2001 to 2006.

Tracy Bullock, chief executive of Mid Cheshire Hospitals trust, voiced similar caution. “When a patient is being fed, you are not just feeding them, you are assessing their alertness, emotional state, ability to engage, skin condition, respiratory rate and so on. I’m not sure AI can do that as the algorithms to enable it would be too complex,” she said.

Foster, doubted the NHS could afford to reduce its workforce as a result of the adoption of AI. “We currently have at least 100,000 vacancies in the NHS with demand rising all the time. I think that redundant NHS staff is a long way from being a significant concern,” he said.

Irrespective of how administrators and clinicians feel about machines taking over control, artificial intelligence is expanding and slowly taking over many of the tasks that were previously done by humans. In the manufacture of cars machines have replaced a large number of workers and improved the quality of the product. This is bound to happen in the health sector too and will probably improve the quality of patient care.

Based on a report from "The Guardian"

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