University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), working with partner organisations including the University of Birmingham (UoB), has been awarded funding for a project that aims to address racial and ethical health inequalities using artificial intelligence (AI).
STANDING Together aims to develop standards for datasets that AI systems use, to ensure they are diverse, inclusive and work across all demographic groups. The resulting standards will help regulators, commissioners, policy makers and health data institutions assess whether AI systems are underpinned by datasets that represent everyone, and don’t leave underrepresented or minority groups behind.
Xiao Liu, Clinical Researcher in Artificial Intelligence and Digital Healthcare at UHB and UoB, and STANDING Together project co-leader, said: “We’re looking forward to starting work on our project, and developing standards that we hope will improve the use of AI both in the UK and around the world.
“We believe AI has enormous potential to improve patient care, but through our earlier work on producing AI guidelines, we also know that there is still lots of work to do to make sure AI is a success stories for all patients. Through the STANDING Together project, we will work to ensure AI benefits all patients and not just the majority.”
In total, NHSX NHS AI Lab, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Health Foundation have awarded £1.4m to four projects, including STANDING Together.
The NHS AI Lab introduced the AI Ethics Initiative to support research and practical interventions that complement existing efforts to validate, evaluate and regulate AI-driven technologies in health and care, with a focus on countering health inequalities. The announcement is the result of the initiative’s partnership with The Health Foundation on a research competition, enabled by NIHR, to understand and enable opportunities to use AI to address inequalities and to optimise datasets and improve AI development, testing and deployment.
Brhmie Balaram, Head of AI Research and Ethics at NHSX, said: “We're excited to support innovative projects that demonstrate the power of applying AI to address some of our most pressing challenges; in this case, we're keen to prove that AI can potentially be used to close gaps in minority ethnic health outcomes.
"Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise care for patients, and we are committed to ensuring that this potential is realised for all patients by accounting for the health needs of diverse communities."
Dr Indra Joshi, Director of the NHS AI Lab at NHSX, added: “As we strive to ensure NHS patients are amongst the first in the world to benefit from leading AI, we also have a responsibility to ensure those technologies don’t exacerbate existing health inequalities.
"These projects will ensure the NHS can deploy safe and ethical artificial intelligence tools that meet the needs of minority communities and help our workforce deliver patient-centred and inclusive care to all.”
Subject to contract, the other projects are as follows:
- University of Westminster
- Aims to raise the uptake of screening for STIs/HIV among minority ethnic communities through an automated AI-driven chatbot which provides advice about sexually transmitted infections. The research will also inform the development and implementation of chatbots designed for minority ethnic populations in public health more widely and within the NHS.
- Loughborough University
- Aims to use AI to improve the investigation of factors contributing to adverse maternity incidents among mothers from different ethnic groups. This research will provide a way of understanding how a range of causal factors combine, interact and lead to maternal harm, and make it easier to design interventions that are targeted and more effective for these groups.
- St George’s, University of London and Moorfields Eye Hospital
- Aims to ensure that AI technologies that detect diabetic retinopathy work for all, by validating the performance of AI retinal image analysis systems that will be used in the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP) in different subgroups of the population. In parallel, the perceptions, acceptability and expectations of health care professionals and people with diabetes will be evaluated in relation to the application of AI systems within the North East London NHS DESP. This study will provide evidence of effectiveness and safety prior to potential commissioning and deployment within the NHS. (Co-investigators: The Homerton University Hospital; Kingston University; and University of Washington, USA.)
The other organisations working with UHB and UoB on STANDING Together are:
- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Health Data Research UK
- Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- the Hospital for Sick Children (Sickkids), Toronto
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