In a bid to relieve pressures on accident and emergency (A&E) units in Birmingham, patients could soon undertake a two-minute triage with artificial intelligence (AI) to check whether their symptoms are hospital-worthy or not.
The digital triage system is the brainchild of the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) trust, as part of grand new plans to streamline services and relieve pressures on A&E and outpatient units, the Guardian reported.
Birmingham citizens will also be encouraged to use online chat services, online symptom checkers and video consultations with medical professionals – both doctors and nurses.
Dr David Rosser, the trust’s chief executive, said there will be a huge shift in the way patients access and receive healthcare in Birmingham, meaning the service will be “unrecognisable” in five to 10 years’ time.
Technology will play a huge part in this, he said, before adding: “This is the first case of technology of this kind being deployed at such a scale to aid the hospital sector.”
Currently across four A&E units in Birmingham, 30% of visits have been deemed as “avoidable attendances” due to minor ailments – this group would benefit from AI triage, the trust said, which would involve a digital symptom-checker.
Another aim is to make 70% of two million outpatient appointments digital in the next two years – so they could take place at home, work or even parked up in your car.
The service already runs virtual clinics for people with liver problems, which lets them see a doctor’s face on half the screen while the rest of the screen shows their letters or results of their scan.
Technology is becoming increasingly integrated with healthcare in the UK, with people turning to privately-run GP apps so they don’t have to wait for weeks in order to speak to a doctor, or they don’t have to take time off work.
It was recently reported that in as little as five years time, the NHS could be short of 70,000 nurses and 7,000 GPs. Co-authored by the Nuffield Trust, the King’s Fund and the Health Foundation, the analysis estimates the budget for training staff will need to rise by at least £900m to tackle the issue.