How artificially-intelligent medical devices will one day treat cancer and critical care patients


June 17th, 2016

The Universities of Nottingham, Oxford and Warwick are leading ‘blue sky’ research into artificially-intelligent medical devices that will improve treatment for cancer and intensive care patients and those with chronic wounds.

The future technologies will continuously monitor critically-ill patients and administer medicines or adjust treatment automatically, using feedback from built-in sensors. The aim is to provide more personalised, accurate and timely care and, ultimately, to save lives.

For the next three years, Professor Stephen Morgan, from the Faculty of Engineering at Nottingham, will head up a network of experts in healthcare technologies, sensing, clinical care, control and modelling to identify potentially innovative clinical tools and approaches.

Over 100,000 patients are admitted to intensive care units in the UK per year. Survivors of critical illness commonly have a care requirement post-discharge from hospital and many experience reduced cognitive function.

Meanwhile, a substantial proportion of the worldwide burden of cancer could be prevented with early detection and better treatment. Similarly, 200,000 patients in the UK have a chronic wound with the cost to the NHS conservatively estimated at £3bn per year, around three per cent of the total estimated expenditure on health. With proper diagnosis and treatment, much of this burden could be avoided.

Professor Morgan said:  “The advent of massive computer power, highly sensitive, specific and flexible sensors, and precisely delivered treatments has finally allowed closed-loop control systems to offer a revolutionary leap in medical treatment.

“The intensive care unit, for instance, provides a highly controlled and technology-friendly environment that favours the development of closed loop control and so there are excellent opportunities to make rapid progress in optimising treatment and advancing the proposed technology.”

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