The umbrella organization for healthcare services in the United Kingdom (UK), the NHS, plans to utilize AI to diagnose and treat people at risk of Hepatitis C, a lethal disease. It plans to eradicate the disease by 2030 with its hi-tech screening program beginning in England in the next few weeks.
Hepatitis C is a severe disease whose symptoms do not have a noticeable manifestation until the liver has been severely deprecated. Hundreds of people could be infected and not know, making the disease a “silent killer.”
This new scheme that plans to bring AI into the screening process will screen thousands of people to provide a life-saving diagnosis and access to the line of treatment before it gets too late. The AI will also scan standard health records for risk factors like historical blood transfusions, HIV diagnosis, etc. Anyone identified through the screening process shall be invited for a physical review by a GP. Those who turn out to be positive will be recommended a line of treatment.
Prof Grahan Foster, NHS England’s national clinical chair in the Hepatitis C elimination program, said that the step marks a “significant step forward” and will save “thousands of lives.” He also added, “we will continue to boost the life chances of thousands of patients by catching the virus even earlier.”
The NHS staff also visits at-risk areas and communities with advanced trucks equipped with screening equipment to test the virus and scan patients’ records.
Rachel Halford, CEO of the Hepatitis C Trust, said, “Thanks to the brilliant advances we have seen in hepatitis C treatment in recent years, we have a real opportunity to eliminate the virus as a public health concern in the next few years.”