With diabetes snowballing across the world, artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise how the condition is detected and managed.

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has doubled over the last 15 years in the UK alone. Healthcare services are buckling under mounting pressure, especially against the backdrop of a backlog triggered by COVID-19.

While there has been an expansion in the use of AI in healthcare in recent years, there is an increasingly urgent need for providers to work in conjunction with technology companies to preserve healthcare which is free at the point of use.

The research and production of diagnostic and treatment tools have the potential to save lives. High-risk people with diabetes are often not identified and are recipients of minimal and basic preventative care, if any. A report found that once an issue was detected, 68% were delayed in their referrals and had often seen many practitioners before being seen by the specialists. GPs frequently had to chase these and put in multiple referrals before the patient was seen.

With supporting technology such as enhanced administration improvement, new diagnostic and monitoring tools and efficient record and data storage, tech companies can reduce some of the pressure felt by health services and in turn increase standards of care for patients.

Personalised, preventative healthcare

The pandemic accelerated the conversation over the role of HealthTech in day-to-day treatment. Technologies such as data, analytics and AI are forecast to lead to the improvement of patient outcomes and aid the reduction of waiting times by supporting a more personalised approach to treatment and giving practitioners the data needed to increase preventative care.

HealthTech can also help speed up the diagnostic process, allowing patients to access correct treatment more quickly, reducing the number of critical cases.

Startups like Manchester-based Gendius have already developed technology that can be used to help individuals manage the risk of further complications relating to their diabetes, such as diabetic foot ulcers and chronic kidney disease. CKD is a condition affecting around 700 million people worldwide, a ‘silent disease’ for which people don’t experience symptoms until the later stages: the earlier the disease is detected, the better the chances of kidney preservation.

Predictive models such as those provided by Gendius mean diseases like CKD can be picked up earlier, preventing expensive procedures such as dialysis and transplantation. 


Big pharma

The likes of Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS and AstraZeneca’s A.Catalyst Network see startups benefit from access to the larger company’s infrastructure and resources, while ‘big pharma’ stands to gain from the innovation startups make possible. 

AstraZeneca worked with Oncoshot on its patient-to-trial matching technology, for example, while it also collaborated with Gendius on its CKD screening algorithm. 

AI has become increasingly present in the healthcare sector in recent years. For a technology still in its infancy, it has already infiltrated health services – and the coming years could see it achieve mass adoption. Only then will we witness its true potential for revolutionising stricken healthcare systems.

This is an abridged version of Lizzie Cameron’s research project compiled during an internship at MedTech 50 company Gendius

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