Highlights this month include: the new Provider Selection Regime Regulations that will play a vital role in governing the procurement of healthcare services in England from next year; the findings from a recent health conference about the enabling of generative AI in healthcare; and a new report from IHPN which has found that young people are more open to the idea of using private healthcare than previously thought.
Healthcare Hot Topics – October 2023
Welcome to our monthly healthcare update with all the latest developments you need to know about
The new Healthcare Services (Provider Selection Regime) Regulations 2023 (the PSR) will play a vital role in governing the procurement of healthcare services in England from 1 January 2024. The PSR has been designed to give the relevant authorities to which it applies more flexibility in selecting providers for health care services. Under the regime, competitive tendering will be a tool for organisations to use when it is of benefit and is intended to better enable the development of stable partnerships and the delivery of integrated care. The new regime reduces the frequency of competitive tendering processes and provides an opportunity for high-performing providers to be reappointed in existing arrangements, without needing to go through a tender process. For further information, please visit Addleshaw Goddard's Procurement Reform Hub.
GE HealthCare has signed a $44 million contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop and obtain regulatory clearance for next-generation advanced point-of-care ultrasound technology with new artificial intelligence (AI) applications. As part of the collaboration, GE HealthCare will work on creating new technology to advance trauma triage and treatment, potentially transforming the standard of care. GE HealthCare will build upon its existing point-of-care ultrasound technology portfolio to develop an advanced probe and ultrasound system together with novel AI technology to ease acquisition and interpretation of ultrasound exams for users of all skill levels, thereby increasing the number of capable users and making delivery of care more efficient. The proposed devices will cover indications for multiple injury types, including head trauma, and lung injuries.
Brainomix and Nanoflex Robotics have been awarded a grant under the UK-Switzerland Bilateral: Collaborative R&D programme, in which the companies will work together to jointly develop an integrated remote diagnosis and treatment platform for stroke, powered by artificial intelligence. The grant, administered by Innovate UK, the United Kingdom's innovation agency, and Innosuisse, Switzerland's Innovation Agency, awarded Brainomix and Nanoflex Robotics £400,000 and CHF 400,000 respectively. The partnership is to start in 2024 and will see the two companies collaborate to develop an AI-assisted magnetic navigation system for robotic surgical tools. The project will leverage Brainomix's AI-enabled diagnostic imaging capabilities and Nanoflex Robotics' precise magnetic navigation technology to create an assisted-navigation feature for interventional devices, such as catheters, as it moves through the vascular network.
At the recent HLTH 2023 conference in Las Vegas, the main theme to emerge was the enabling of the use of generative AI in healthcare, as reported by Digital Health. A significant number of AI start-ups from around the world attended the conference. These ranged from AI from disease specific models like the UK’s Skin Analytics, patient engagement tools, and tools to extract meaning from unstructured medical notes like another UK start-up Pangaea Data. AI and machine learning has been widely recognised as a key trend in health for years. Less than a year since the general release of ChatGPT, the pace of innovation is extremely quick, with generative AI applications and large language models for health being released on an almost daily basis. Whilst ChatGPT is not considered ready for clinical use yet, it is already finding its way into many parts of healthcare, in particular administrative and support functions. The hope is that generative AI will provide tools that improve the productivity of clinicians who spend ever growing amounts of time documenting care. An example of how AI can help boost productivity was given by Dr John Halamka, president of the Mayo Clinic platform, who said that to cope with the 1500 emails he gets daily he now puts them through generative AI to summarise what people want. However, he stressed that its value was not in the abstract but in the specific and depended on individual use cases. “You have to define the business and then look at how gen AI can help".
Also at HLTH 2023, Google announced it added new generative AI-powered capabilities to its Vertex AI platform to enable health and life sciences companies to search patient data. Vertex AI is a search engine that allows organisations to build their own generative AI-enabled search engines for customers. Companies will now be able to search clinical sources like FHIR data and clinical notes. This can be combined with its medical large language model Med-PaLM 2, which is a generative AI technology that utilises Google's LLMs to answer medical questions. The new feature allows providers to find answers to medical questions pertaining directly to a patient's medical records and obtain answers to general medical questions.
A recent debate hosted by the Digital Health Networks looked at beliefs about the use of AI in healthcare. Speaking for the motion that AI is not yet ready for clinical use, Dr Nisha Sharma, director of breast screening and clinical lead for breast imaging at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust said that while she believed in the use of AI in clinical workspaces, she was concerned that some parts of the health system were unprepared for their use, and some aspects of the technology also weren’t sufficiently developed to be reliable. Sharma listed several challenges around the use of AI, including the lack of interoperability between different organisations, as well as a lack of understanding about how the algorithms themselves will be used. Opposing the motion, Dr Tracy O’Regan, professional officer of clinical imaging and research at the Society and College of Radiographers, noted that her profession had long had standards set around new technology, including AI, that required everyone working within it understand what deep learning is and how it works. The debate ultimately concluded that AI can be integrated safely into clinical use where proper guidelines are in place. The online audience supported the motion 54% to 46%.
The Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has published a new report, with one of the key findings being that younger people are much more supportive and open to the idea of using private healthcare than previously thought. More than 40% of people between 18 and 24 questioned for the report said they had used private healthcare services. The report is based on both quantitative and qualitative research IHPN carried out with Public First and included national survey and targeted focus groups. Some of the findings confirmed what IHPN already knew, which is the clear illustration of how access to timely care is important, given the current challenges facing the NHS. They noted that, despite a perception of the private sector being ‘unpopular’, that in fact people feel positive about private healthcare, particularly those who have already used it. The research showed evidence of a generational shift in attitudes towards private healthcare and concludes that this has potentially key implications for the long-term future of the sector.
LaingBuisson has reported that Signature Senior Lifestyle plans to deploy CCTV technology across its care homes, with bedroom safety monitoring offered as an opt-in choice for families of someone living with dementia. This follows a trial conducted at the beginning of the year at Reigate Grange, Surrey, that saw cameras installed throughout the home and, subject to family approval, in the bedrooms of residents living with dementia. Signature has partnered with the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable (CCFTV), which is calling on the government to make safety monitoring technology mandatory in all care homes. Having received support from the families involved in the trial, the provider now plans to deploy the cameras across its nine other homes.