Artificial Intelligence, News, Technology

Red Ninja and Babylon – tech startups using AI in NHS healthcare

Anna Wall

Amie Haven, Journalist

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the tech of the day, and the NHS is utilising tech startups to provide care for patients with greater speed and accuracy.

The UK government has pledged to invest £250 million into a national AI lab, NHSX. The AI lab will lead the way in digital healthcare for the NHS and plans to utilise new tech to relieve pressure on overburdened staff and provide faster and more precise care for patients. 

NHSX will hold the AI reins to ensure that new tech is developed under strict ethical guidelines so patient data is protected. The AI tech will also have to undergo rigorous testing before being used for patient care. 

However, some AI tech is already being used by health services across the country, with tech startups like Red Ninja and Babylon lending a digital hand.

Red Ninja are a small design-led tech company based in Liverpool. They design tech with a social conscience: making cities smarter, helping young people with mental health problems, and aiding the elderly in their homes. 

The team at Red Ninja worked with Liverpool City Council and Innovate UK to develop the LiFE project, which uses AI algorithms to clear congestion ahead of ambulances by optimising traffic lights.

Ambulance drivers report experiencing stress as they try to find their way through congested roads in order to reach emergency situations. The designated arrival time for ambulances in England is a maximum of 7 minutes for urgent cases. Civilian drivers often panic when trying to get out of the way, which sometimes results in accidents that damage ambulances and further delay arrival at emergency scenes.

In order to address this, Red Ninja developed a system that integrated the SCOOT system of AI traffic management and adapted it to take into account the needs of ambulance drivers. The drivers made it clear that in emergency situations they must concentrate on the matter at hand and needed a system that didn’t require their input. That way the paramedics can focus on getting to and treating critically ill patients. 

The team integrated GPS data, the SCOOT system, and historical ambulance data to create a system that calculates and relays routes for ambulance drivers to navigate busy city roads. The team hope to roll out the LiFE project across the UK, making sure that ambulances reach the people who need them quickly and safely. 

Babylon are another tech startup working with the NHS, providing accessible healthcare for patients living or working in the London and Birmingham areas. Although Babylon Health offer private services, they have joined forces with the NHS to provide a free digital healthcare service that utilises AI tech. Babylon GP at Hand is an app that patients can download and use to access AI triage, GP video appointments, and manage prescriptions and referrals. Patients who sign up for the service will also have access to face-to-face appointments and other services offered by the GP at Hand clinics.

The triage service offers a way for patients to check their symptoms using AI technology developed by doctors and scientists, and the tool can help patients determine their next course of action. This kind of technology can prevent unnecessary GP appointments if used with caution and could be best for dealing with minor conditions where patients are uncertain if they need medical treatment. 

Should patients need to speak to a doctor, the app allows them to book a video appointment anytime during the day or night. Patients can generally expect a consultation within 2 hours. It is also possible to replay video appointments, which may be helpful for patients who need to revisit key advice and information. 

Currently, there are 6 clinics in London and 1 in Birmingham. But patients will need to live or work within 40 minutes of a clinic in order to access the digital services. If the convenience of a GP on your device sounds appealing but you’re not local to a clinic, don’t despair as GP at Hand is expected to be rolled out to other areas across the UK. 

We can expect to see increasingly innovative ways of using AI to improve healthcare and services throughout the UK. With NHSX at the helm and with the assistance of ambitious startups, our healthcare system is set to radically change. 

With an eye on ethics, a strict code of conduct, and a £250 million boost, the NHS is utilising AI tech to make healthcare faster, more precise, and vastly more accessible.

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