New artificial intelligence could help detect heart disease, lung cancer

Scientists in England are working on a new type of AI that could help doctors better detect heart disease.

Researchers at an Oxford hospital have created a new type of artificial intelligence that is able to accurately diagnose scans for both heart disease and lung cancer.

This technology could revolutionize the scanning process and may save billions of dollars by allowing diseases to be detected much earlier. Though it is not yet ready for wide release, the system will be put into use at National Health Service (NHS) hospitals for free this summer

“There is about £2.2bn spent on pathology services in the NHS,” said Sir John Bell, a researcher at the University of Oxford, according to BBC News. “You may be able to reduce that by 50%. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS.”

Currently, cardiologists are able to tell heartbeat timing from scans if there is a problem. However, even the most skilled doctors read such scans wrong one in five times. The new scanning system — developed by researchers at the John Radcliffe Hospital — diagnoses heart scans much more accurately. It can also pick up details in the scans that doctors cannot see.

The system — known as Ultromics — has already been tested in clinical trials throughout six cardiology units. Such results will be published later this year once they are checked by experts. However, early reports state the system has greatly outperformed heart specialists. If confirmed, it will be available for free to NHS hospitals across the country.

The studies show the system is effective, and could help mitigate the some 12,000 mis-diagnosed heart scans made each year. Not only are those problems for patients, but they also cost the NHS roughly 800 million dollars in unnecessary operations and the treatments. Early estimates suggest such costs could be cut in half by the new system.

This technology goes hand-in-hand with another AI system that will look for signs of lung cancer by searching for cell clumps known as nodules. It is hard for doctors to tell if nodules are harmless or not, and the system should be able to make that read.


“As cardiologists, we accept that we don’t always get it right at the moment,” said Paul Leeson, a professor who worked on the new heart system, according to Telegraph UK.  “But now there is a possibility that way may be able to do better.”

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