Artificial intelligence is being used to tackle racial inequality in the NHS as part of a government plan to boost health care.
We hope that millions of African Americans, Asians and ethnic minorities in the UK will be able to benefit from innovative computer technology designed to revolutionize treatment and accelerate the diagnosis of potentially fatal conditions.
Health Minister Sajid Javid has approved a series of high-tech initiatives aimed at bridging the UK’s health divide. It comes amid growing concerns among senior ministers on the issue.
New projects include creating new standards for health data inclusiveness amid fears that current data sets do not adequately represent people from ethnic backgrounds.
Another project will use computer algorithms to investigate the factors behind adverse birth events involving BAME mothers. Outcomes may lead to recommended changes that may include new training for midwives and nurses. Black women are five times more likely to die in the UK from complications during pregnancy than white women.
Javid said he is committed to removing barriers to the NHS so that we can all live healthier and longer, regardless of background.
Experts have been warning for years that some people in the BAME community are in poorer health than the general population. More recently, epidemics have disproportionately damaged these groups.
Evidence also suggests that structural racism may cause BAME patients to experience worse health outcomes. Reports show significant differences in the prevalence and outcome of some health conditions within ethnic groups in the UK.
Javid said: As the first Minister of Health and Social Services of a minority background, I am deeply concerned with bridging the gaps that exist within the health care system. Recovering from the pandemic gives us the opportunity to change, raise the bar and ensure the NHS meets everyone’s needs.
Technology, especially AI, can be an amazing force for good. It saves valuable clinician time and provides faster, more accurate diagnoses, helping patients access the care they need as quickly as possible. It can also help you better understand racial differences, so you can train your staff to look for different symptoms or complex factors, diagnose them faster, and provide personalized treatment.
Javid has expressed his personal disappointment at racial inequality in healthcare. It is unacceptable that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die from complications during childbirth than white women. AI could help better understand why this is happening and ensure that black mothers have equal opportunities to live healthy lives with their newborns.
The move to address racial inequality using AI will be led by NHSX. The AI Ethics Initiative aims to support research and practical interventions using AI-powered technologies in health and healthcare with a focus on addressing health inequalities.
Another funded project includes an AI-powered chatbot to increase the uptake of sexually transmitted diseases/HIV testing in ethnic communities.
The fourth involves improved computer screening to detect diabetic retinopathy. Recent analyzes have shown that performance varies significantly between ethnic groups because people from ethnic groups have higher levels of retinal pigmentation, which can affect image quality.
Javid said one of the most important new AI initiatives is to update UK health data to more accurately reflect the population.
If you’re using data from mostly white patients to train your AI, you won’t be able to help the entire population. We need to ensure that the data we collect is representative of our country. This new funding will support the development of a set of standards necessary to ensure that the datasets for training and testing AI systems are diverse and comprehensive so that no one is disadvantaged because of race, he said.
Josh Keith, a senior fellow at the Health Foundation, a think tank participating in the initiative, said: Everyone’s health and care benefits.
We hope that the projects supported through this partnership will enable advances in AI-powered technologies to make a significant contribution to improving health outcomes for the UK’s ethnic minority population.
Brhmie Balaram, Head of AI Research and Ethics at NHSX, said: “Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize patient care, and we are committed to ensuring that this potential is realized for all patients, taking into account the health needs of our diverse communities.
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