ISV ThinkTank: How ISV’s are using AI to transform the diagnosis and treatment of disease
By: Maria Oliver
Ageing populations, modern lifestyles and a global pandemic have put pressure on healthcare organisations to perform better at spotting, diagnosing and treating disease. Fortunately, artificial intelligence, best described as the simulation of human intelligence by machines, is already transforming many key areas of health and life sciences. This blog highlights multiple exciting areas where AI is making huge leaps in this industry, and how Microsoft ISVs (independent Software Vendors) are pivotal in this innovation
Why is AI so crucial in healthcare?
In August 2022, patients waiting for treatment on the NHS reached 6.8 million with an average increase of 100,00 per month – the highest number since records began. In cancer care, waits to start treatment have doubled compared to 2017/18, with demand set to rise further over the winter months. The need to tackle this backlog has spurred interest in AI’s ability to assist health professionals with diagnosis and assessment of treatment options.
At a relatively simple level, automation can assume everyday tasks such as writing up notes and booking follow-up consultations. This frees up staff to spend more time with patients. AI also has more ambitious uses, such as analysing large data sets around individuals or entire populations. This can reveal susceptibility to specific illnesses due to genetics or lifestyle. It can also help with developing personalised approaches to treat and manage disease. In the case of emerging diseases where response times are often critical, AI can accelerate the development of new and more effective treatments.
Let’s explore some innovation and use cases that AI has been applied to within healthcare and life sciences which could support the NHS and lead to better patient outcomes.
Enabling early detection with AI
Healthcare teams are already using AI to make more informed decisions. AI can accelerate team recommendations and provide patients with better information. AI models are also helping doctors to assess patient risks for upcoming operations and predict surgery outcomes more accurately. For example, breast cancer can be very hard to detect. Mammogram screenings miss tumours for between 20 to 30 percent of women with breast cancer, so many countries require two radiologists to read every mammogram.
Mia® is a medical device provided to hospitals and breast screening centres by a Microsoft partner, Kheiron Medical Technologies. Operating in the Azure Cloud, it enables hospitals to use AI to read mammograms that would normally require a second radiologist. For example, it empowers the hospital to reassure a patient that their mammogram is normal, or to call them back for further investigation.
Mia®, is currently being trialled at NHS Grampian, which provides health and social care services to over 500,000 people in north-eastern Scotland. The aim is to help medical staff detect more cancer, reduce the backlog of mammograms to be read, and deliver results to patients faster
Dr Gerald Lip, Clinical Director, North East Scotland Breast Screening Programme, said: “We have seen significant results using Mia®. Not just in the detection of difficult cancers but also in the time it takes to get results to patients. Radiologists cannot work 24 hours a day, but the AI can. By considering replacing one human review of a screening with AI, we project a 30 to 40 percent reduction in reporting workload on our team. This is time that can be spent with patients.”
Dr Lip is careful to caution that the AI is never used in isolation, but always as an auxiliary tool for supporting a highly trained radiologist.
Understanding disease symptoms with higher dimensionality
In the field of neuroscience, AI has already shifted approaches to treatment and prevention. It is helping clinicians to understand and treat neurodegenerative diseases at many stages that were previously considered ‘challenging to reach’. In early-stage research, AI is being used to help identify promising drug candidates. And in clinical development, it is helping to interpret complex patient data.
IXICO is another ISV which, with support from Microsoft, is striving to improve treatment methods and achieve earlier detection of diseases. IXICO, which has deep expertise in neuroscience, uses Microsoft’s Azure Cloud to help biopharma companies understand disease symptoms with higher dimensionality in comparison to manual assessment or clinical rating scales.
IXICO’s algorithms deploy AI and machine learning to analyse data from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). This is helping biopharma companies to increase their success rates in central nervous system clinical trials. It also enables reductions in the cost of running clinical trials and provides more sensitive measurements of treatment efficacy.
Delivering personalised treatments
Partnerships like IXICO and Microsoft have shifted the way disease is understood in the biopharma and healthcare sector. We can understand how disease can affect different people and which drugs are the best treatment for their symptoms, neuroscience and genetics. This is just the start of the journey in AI in neuroscience, and a step closer to the goal of healthier patients with early detection and treatments with better outcomes.
While inspiring developments regularly take place in this field the truly exciting fact is that we have only just begun to explore AI’s potential. These are just a few examples of where partners are using artificial intelligence and while inspiring developments regularly take place in this field the truly exciting fact is that we have only just begun to explore AI’s potential.
No one can know exactly what’s to come, but one thing’s for sure — the use of AI is evolving faster than ever before and I believe we are only at the beginning of the journey.
Please contact us at ISVUK@Microsoft.com if you are a healthcare or pharmaceutical company seeking support in these areas; or a business with an existing solution seeking partnership to drive GTM and accelerate adoption.
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About the author
I am a Partner Development Manager responsible for recruiting high growth healthcare and life sciences partners into the Microsoft Ecosystem. I am particularly passionate about AI and how ISVs can make a real difference using this technology. I am also a mentor for start-up and scale-up companies through our Founders Hub Program, helping high growth companies with their overall business and go-to-market strategies.