The robot will see you now: how AI could revolutionise NHS

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Robots could soon help hospital patients eat their meals, diagnose serious illnesses and even help people recover from operations, in an artificial intelligence revolution in the NHS, a new report predicts.

Machines could take over a wide range of tasks currently done by doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and administrative staff, according to a leading thinktank.

Widespread adoption of AI and the NHS embracing “full automation” could free up as much as £12.5bn a year worth of staff time for them to spend interacting with patients.

“Given the scale of productivity savings required in health and care – and the shortage of frontline staff – automation presents a significant opportunity to improve both the efficiency and the quality of care in the NHS,” says a new report released on Monday by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Lord Darzi, the eminent surgeon and ex-health minister.

“Bedside robots” could help patients consume food and drink and move around their ward, and even help with exercises as part of their rehabilitation from surgery, it says. In addition, “someone arriving at hospital may begin by undergoing digital triage in an automated assessment suite. AI-based systems, include machine-learning algorithms, would be used to make more accurate diagnoses of diseases such as pneumonia, breast and skin cancers, eye diseases and heart conditions.”