Digital, data and AI strategy for health and care in Wales

Health minister Eluned Morgan launches the Welsh government’s Digital and Data Strategy for Health and Social Care, addressing how AI, data and tech can be used to improve health outcomes 

Digital technology and data can advance the quality of health and social care services, improve the patient experience, and empower people to manage their health. Exactly how they can be used has been set out by the Welsh government in a new strategy, detailing what is expected from health boards and trusts, and from those who provide social care.

person walking on hallway in blue scrub suit near incubator

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography

Of course, this includes artificial intelligence – and AI has been much in the news. But the strategy also aims to encourage other innovative applications of digital tech, such as the NHS Wales App, the  Electronic Patient Clinical Record developed by Welsh Ambulance Service, the Welsh Nursing Care Record and the Cancer Informatics System. 

In making the case for the benefits of such tech, Mr Morgan cited the IBEX Galen AI platform which automatically analyses digital images of pathology samples, classifying as having a higher or lower likelihood of cancer, prior to a review by clinicians.  

When used by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board to analyse prostate biopsies, this AI system resulted in a 13% rise in cancer detection. Further testing is now under way in six health boards with the hope of making this kind of AI analysis part of routine prostate cancer testing and to assess its use in the diagnosis of other cancers, such as suspected cases of breast cancer. 

The projected is funded through the Welsh government’s Innovation Fund. 

Launching the strategy, Mr Morgan said: ‘By embracing new technologies we can transform how we interact with the NHS, find new ways to save lives and increase performance across health and social care. 

‘Innovative and effective use of data-driven technology, moving to digital heath care and exploiting new technology is vital if we are to meet the soaring demand and increasing pressures on our NHS. 

‘Wales is pioneering digital health care and the modernisation of the NHS will be driven by digital, data and innovation in the years to come. This is why I am lunching the refreshed Digital and Data Strategy for Health and Social Care strategy. This sets out how we can put digital at the heart of our plans to increase the use of digital and harness technological advances to improve health care in Wales, and help people to lead happier, healthier and longer lives.’ 

Dr Muhammad Aslam, Consultant Pathologist and Betsi Cadwaladr’s Clinical Director of North Wales Diagnostic and Clinical Support Services, says: ‘Early detection saves lives and AI in Betsi Cadwaladr is improving prostate and breast cancer diagnoses. This is just the start and it will lead to quicker diagnoses and more accurate predictions of prognoses for patients with various cancers.  

It is wonderful to see the use of what I like to call “assistive intelligence” being replicated across Wales.’

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