Artificial Intelligence in healthcare – what does the NHS workforce think?

Posted On: 
13th August 2018

A new survey of NHS staff reveals that while there remains a difference between the level of enthusiasm for AI between senior managers and other respondents of the survey, overall the majority view it as positive.

Digital transformation has been the recent focal point in the discussion surrounding healthcare, and with AI at the forefront, continuously popping up as an example of ways the NHS could achieve its aims stated in the Five Year Forward View.

The tech focused Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced an investment of £400 million in tech transformation and supported AI as providing “huge opportunities to improve patient outcomes and to make life easier for staff.”  The Prime Minister herself has even spoken at length about AIs potential improve health provision in the UK.

However, AI not only provides opportunities to the NHS, it is also draws our attention to the areas where the NHS needs improving. The House of Lords Select Committee report ‘AI in the UK: Ready, willing and able?’ showed that obtaining applicable data from other organisations remains the most significant barrier to adoption of AI and could force the implantation to stand still whilst other changes are made.

This leave us with one question, what does the NHS workforce think?  

While the adoption of AI in aiding the NHS to deliver healthcare is a priority of the Department and its Secretary, a survey by Dods Research reveals the NHS workers attitudes to AI and how organisations use it.  

The survey had 1,019 respondents including 700 individuals working for NHS Trusts, 47 for clinical commissioning groups, and 31 from NHS England. In terms of roles, approaching 200 respondents were senior managers, heads of services, directors or chief executives and over 300 were clinicians.

The survey revealed a noticeable gap between those that see potential in AI and those that have plans to implement it within their organisations. Over 60% of respondents having no plans for using AI, as opposed to a mere 6% of respondents from each cohort that had been utilising it in their organisations.

Furthermore, it also showed that whilst senior managers were euthanistic about AI, clinicians remained more cautious, noting the issues that could accompany it such as the needs for additional safe guards.

Despite his much-acclaimed appreciation for technology, Hancock’ has acknowledged the gap that will need to be filled before AI can become the star “we will put in place the data standards and support the workforce to adopt change too.” Training will need to be offered to staff to understand the data generated, safe guards will need to be implemented and IT infrastructure will have to be up-to date to ensure the system is secure. 

AI has huge potential for healthcare, as can be seen in the responses to the survey, but progress is still needed to ensure that staff and organisations are using it correctly and to the best of its ability. AI will need to be a much needed helping hand to the NHS workforce, not another issue to add to the NHS’s list of improvements.

***To purchase the full AI in Healthcare report which includes lots of exclusive in-depth insight into public sector sentiment towards applications of machine learning, the type of suppliers that might be considered and the issues that need to be resolved for an AI project – please click here to visit the Dods Shop.***