Suffolk firm's avatar doctor could help the NHS save millions
PUBLISHED: 17:04 09 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:03 14 January 2019
A firm in Stowmarket has been developing ground-breaking AI technology to offer virtual, automated appointments that could help the NHS battle the "perfect storm" it's facing.
Health chiefs believe up to a third of the 90m outpatient consultations each year do not require a hospital visit, and hope to save time and money by switching these over to Skype-style video services on smartphones or computers.
The plans were unveiled yesterday as part of a new 10-year plan for the NHS to cut waste and help secure the future of the health service.
Orbital Media, based in Stowmarket, has been innovating AI healthcare technologies in collaboration with University of Essex, Cardiff University, Innovate UK and the NHS, “to provide fast, automated and very visual tools for securing healthcare information,” explained its chief executive, Peter Brady.
There are a number of minor ailments that Mr Brady believes should be outside the remit of primary care.
“There isn’t really much that a doctor can do for a cough or a cold,” he explains. “And when you go to a surgery, you are also passing your germs to others.”
Based on research conducted by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) up to £2.3 billion per year is spent by the NHS on minor ailments.
The AI comes into it because Orbital wanted to make the experience to accessing the right sort of information visually interactive.
“We wanted people to have a very visual engagement with an avatar – an automated person, if you like – but also it’s about the actual ability to provide the information in a very human way and a very contextual way. That required an AI mechanism.
“With better AI automated healthcare information systems such as ours, these costs to the NHS could be substantially reduced via enhanced patient understanding of self care treatment options.
“It’s exciting for Orbital that in the years to come we could be having a profound and positive impact on healthcare outcomes for millions of patients.”
Orbital Media’s work is currently still in the prototype phase, but the project itself has led them to explore other areas of AI.
“We have 7-8 different AI projects that we’re working on at the moment as a result of this one project, which is hugely exciting,” says Mr Brady.