Patients with diabetes and high blood pressure are benefiting from pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) that turns a smartphone camera into a clinical-grade tool to detect early kidney disease.
NHSX, the digital transformation arm of the NHS, is supporting Healthy.io to offer 500,000 patients technology-supported home-testing kits over the next 3 years. More than 3,500 patients have already received their kits.
Patients taking part receive a simple test kit and smartphone app that allows them to test, scan and transmit their results to their GP within minutes, without leaving home.
The technology developed by Healthy.io essentially turns patients’ smartphone cameras into medical devices – analysing testing images and producing results regardless of lighting conditions, setting or camera type.
With chronic kidney disease affecting around 1 in 10 people in the UK, this new testing and technology is designed to reduce unnecessary trips to the GP and hospital. It should encourage more people to seek an early diagnosis, ultimately saving thousands of lives each year.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“This is another brilliant example of how innovative technologies are transforming healthcare and improving lives. Patients are able to receive a diagnosis sooner, saving time for clinicians so they can spend more time on treatment, and ultimately saving more lives through earlier diagnosis.
“This innovation is another step forwards in making high-quality healthcare more accessible – in some cases without leaving the comfort of your own home.”
Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said:
“Artificial intelligence holds enormous potential for the NHS and in many areas is already providing radical benefits for patients and clinicians.
“The use of this latest testing technology is another huge step forward enabling us to provide earlier diagnosis of disease and improve patient care and treatment outcomes while also freeing up NHS staff.”
Dr David Lipscomb, diabetes clinical lead at Sussex Community Foundation NHS Trust, said:
“The service has enabled us to identify and prioritise follow-up care for people who may have early-stage chronic kidney disease that could have otherwise gone undetected.
“It allows us to offer our patients a new way of engaging with their care that is more convenient for both patients and staff.”
Dr Indra Joshi, Director of AI at NHSX, said:
“Technologies like this have great potential to identify serious disease earlier, and can empower people to make the lifestyle changes needed to help better manage their condition.
“Enabling people to self-test at home using their smartphone’s camera can ease the burden on frontline services whilst encouraging uptake of an important test that is far easier to conduct at home.
“Through the AI Award we are testing some of the most promising AI-based innovations to see if the NHS should consider spreading them on a much larger scale to even more patients.”
Katherine Ward, Chief Commercial Officer and Managing Director of UK and Europe, Healthy.io, said:
“Chronic kidney disease is a silent killer and has a major impact on society, yet very few people are aware of its dangers. Early detection of the disease from the comfort of home will help people avoid dialysis or transplant and will be a huge cost saving for the NHS.”