The use of new technology such as machine learning (ML) and generative artificial intelligence (AI) is key to overcoming the challenges experienced by the UK’s National Healthcare Services (NHS), according to the Health Foundation’s chief executive Dr Jennifer Dixon.

The increase in the use and adoption of technology was a major theme at the 2023 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Conference in Manchester on 7 November.

Multiple speakers echoed the same sentiment that new technology can help in overcoming multiple health challenges such as staff shortages and increased demand.

NICE chairman Sharmila Nebharjani and NICE chief executive Dr Sam Roberts stated that the use of ML can help in decreasing administrative workload and free up more time for clinical assessments. Dr Roberts was quick to point out that whilst generative AI helped reduce workload, human oversight is still needed.

ML and AI have also been particularly useful in developing diagnostic imaging software. The diagnostic imaging market is expected to grow to be worth $45bn in 2030, as per the GlobalData market model.

Another technology that was highlighted in the sessions was remote patient monitoring. Nebharjani highlighted that the future of healthcare is remote patient care, and the use of virtual wards and therapeutic/diagnostic apps can help reduce waiting lists and improve patient access.

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As per a GlobalData report, the remote patient monitoring market is expected to be worth $760m in 2030. This trend was fuelled by the increased demand for wearable and virtual care delivery technology during the Covid-19 pandemic but has been steadily growing due to the ease of remote monitoring technology.

Rachel Neaman, ex-deputy director of digital at the UK’s Department of Health, said there are a number of lessons to be learnt regarding health tech innovation and adoption from the fall of AI-assisted virtual GP app Babylon Health, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August.

Neaman noted that one should be careful about the ‘hype’ surrounding digital technologies. Adding that tech has a ‘shelf life’ and needs to be continuously evaluated to avoid falling to irrelevance or obsoletion.