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25th July 2022
An innovative Scottish project that spares people the discomfort of endoscopy by getting them to swallow a tiny camera is to be augmented with the introduction of artificial intelligence to screen the images taken from inside them.
A growing number of NHS boards are now using PillCam as part of the national ScotCap initiative to try to identify bowel cancer sooner.
At present the multiple images recorded and transmitted from the PillCam as it travels through a patient’s intestines and bowel are reviewed by trained clinicians.
Now, as part of a Europe-wide consortium, the University of Strathclyde, NHS Highland and two of Scotland's innovation centres – the Digital Health and Care Innovation centre and The Data Lab – are to examine the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI)-supported analysis of the images.
Professor Roma Maguire, Director of the University of Strathclyde’s Health and Care Futures initiative says the aim is to build on the success so far of PillCam:
“Capsule endoscopy, particularly AI-assisted, has huge potential to improve the early diagnosis of bowel cancer, but for such an approach to be adopted it has to be acceptable to patients.”
Professor Maguire says they are developing digital tools that will contribute to understanding patient outcomes from capsule endoscopy and patients' experience and feelings of the procedure. She adds:
“This is a really pioneering project involving partners from across Scotland who are contributing their expertise.”
The Chief Executive Officer of the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre, Professor George Crooks said the importance of harnessing innovative technology to help the NHS meet its daily challenges is becoming increasingly recognised:
“To secure high quality, safe and effective service delivery, there is a vital need to engage all the relevant expertise from across the clinical, research and technology communities to secure not only the latest technical innovations but also the clinical service models that serve the needs of patients and clinicians in equal measure.
He added that the “exciting European collaborative” will build on Scotland’s current work and support future diagnostic models by harnessing the understanding of AI as a tool for clinicians. He explained clinicians can use AI for effective decisions on management to deliver “significant improvements” in the management of patients at risk of bowel cancer.
Brian Hills, Chief Executive of The Data Lab, described the potential of using AI to help clinicians spot early bowel cancer as “game-changing”:
“The project demonstrates how Scotland is very much at the forefront of global healthcare innovation. It has the potential to make bowel cancer diagnosis and treatment more cost effective, less invasive, and easier for patients than existing procedures, and has fantastic potential to reduce the capacity pressures NHS health boards across the UK are experiencing.”