Academy of Medical Royal Colleges publishes report looking at the predicted impact of Artificial Intelligence

  • 28 Jan 2019
  • RCOphth

As Matt Hancock continues to promote his digital vision for the NHS as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) has published its Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare report looking at the likely impact of AI on the UK healthcare system. The report welcomes the flood of new developments in this area, but also advises that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will not be the cure to all the system’s ails.

Professor Carrie MacEwen, AoMRC Chair, said that the report “counsels caution that politicians and policy makers would do well to heed, in that it won’t alleviate pressure on the NHS any time soon… and that AI is not likely to replace clinicians for the foreseeable future.

AI may not look quite like we might have imagined in sci-fi films and grand visions of the future, but the reality is that it is already well-integrated into our everyday lives from smart technology in the home through to the ongoing introduction of driverless cars. Recent projects such as the joint venture by the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, DeepMind, and Moorfields Eye Hospital, which used retinal imaging to recommend the correct referral decision with 94% accuracy, have shown ophthalmology to be a leader in its application for healthcare.

Professor Andrew Lotery, RCOphth Scientific Committee Chair, said following the report’s release: “The Royal College of Ophthalmologists welcomes the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ report on artificial intelligence in healthcare. Ophthalmology is well placed to take advantage of artificial intelligence due to the wealth of digital images ophthalmologists deal with. What this means as clinicians is that in the future we will be able to manage patients quicker without compromising accuracy. This will help us to continue to manage the unprecedented increase in patients with serious eye disorders such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.

The report includes further recommendations for critical appraisal of any commercial company developing AI technology, regulation of the industry, and adequate training to support the healthcare workforce to understand AI (as well as its limitations).