Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing how suspected prostate and breast cancer is being diagnosed in Wales.
Following successful trials analysing prostate biopsies, which saw a 13% increase in cancer detection, the IBEX Galen AI platform is now being trialled in suspected breast cancer cases at Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board.
Funded through the Welsh Government's Innovation Fund and supported through the work of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Centre of Excellence, the AI tool automatically analyses digital images of pathology samples, classifying them through a traffic light system, as having a higher or lower likelihood of cancer, prior to a review by clinicians.
By classifying the images, the most urgent cases are prioritised, and patient outcomes improved through faster diagnosis and potentially having to undergo fewer biopsies and additional testing.
The IBEX AI platform is now undergoing further testing within six health boards with the ambition to make this technology part of routine prostate cancer testing supporting clinical teams to and assess its use in the diagnosis of additional cancers.
The success of the IBEX AI project has been recognised at this year's UK innovate Awards where it has been announced as a finalist in the Innovation Spread Category.
The use of AI and similar technology is just one example of how digital services are transforming health care in Wales. To build on the work already underway, and to ensure Wales continues to lead on digital health care, Health Minister Eluned Morgan today launched the Digital and Data Strategy for Health and Social Care.
This strategy sets out the expectations to health boards and trusts, together with Social Care providers, on how digital and data should be used to advance the quality of health and social care services, improve the patient experience, and empower people to manage their health.
As well as AI tools such as IBEX, other examples of how digital is being used within NHS Wales and the types of innovation the Digital and Data Strategy wants to encourage include; the NHS Wales App, Welsh Ambulance Service's Electronic Patient Clinical Record, the Welsh Nursing Care Record and the Cancer Informatics System.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan said:
By embracing new technologies we can transform how we interact with the NHS, find new ways to save lives and increase performance across health and social care.
Innovative and effective use of data-driven technology, moving to digital heath care and exploiting new technology is vital if we are to meet the soaring demand and increasing pressures on our NHS.
Wales is pioneering digital health care and the modernization of the NHS will be driven by digital, data and innovation in the years to come. This is why I am lunching the refreshed Digital and Data Strategy for Health and Social Care strategy. This sets out how we can put digital at the heart of our plans to increase the use of digital and harness technological advances to improve health care in Wales, and help people to lead happier, healthier and longer lives.
At my visit today, we are seeing how AI presents incredible opportunities to transform the way we interact and deliver NHS services. The benefits of using AI to help diagnose cancer has exceeded all our expectations and it is fantastic that six Welsh Health Boards are undertaking further trials of this technology. The IBEX system has shown real promise and the possibilities of what this type of technology can do and how it could be used in the future across a number of suspected cancers is an exciting prospect.
Dr Muhammad Aslam, consultant pathologist and Betsi Cadwaladr's clinical director of North Wales Diagnostic and Clinical Support Services, said:
I previously said the use of artificial intelligence for diagnosis and prognosis of cancers puts us ‘at the crossroads of an exciting new world'.
I firmly believe this and it is wonderful to see the use of, what I like to call assistive intelligence, is being replicated across Wales.
I'm proud Betsi Cadwaladr was the first health board in the UK to forge a path with its clinical use, with the help of Welsh Government's Small Business Research Initiative Wales funding.
Early detection saves lives and AI in Betsi Cadwaladr is improving prostate and breast cancer diagnoses. This is just the start and it will lead to quicker diagnoses and more accurate predictions of prognoses for patients with various cancers.
I feel very proud Welsh Government recognises our achievements and I'm grateful of its continued support for the work we are doing.