Results of an AI technology trial at Barts Health NHS Trust have shown it has the potential to prevent thousands of diabetes patients from limb amputation. It has already helped identify people at risk of complications.
The technology has assisted in speeding up the process of reviewing data analysed in a project. Clinicians at the trust have said without the AI, it would take over 100 years to go through this process. It means that it would now take just a few weeks to complete from start to finish.
The trust deployed the technology to scan 14.2 million documents, to find patients with diabetic foot disease (DFD), which is a potentially serious complication of diabetes. The technology harnesses natural language processing during the scanning of the documents.
The software looked through medical records and notes to find 30% more patients with diabetes, and 375% more patients with diabetic foot problems. It was able to identify 61,756 patients with diabetes and, of these, 3,119 patients with DFD. This made the process easier for clinicians to schedule earlier treatments to save feet and limbs from amputation.
Dr Charles Gutteridge, Chief Clinical Information Officer at the trust, said: “Attempting this scale of analysis manually would have been frankly impossible.
“Theoretically it would have taken one clinician over a hundred years to review that volume of documents. So not only does AI technology help us find patients who we couldn’t otherwise find, it also saves precious clinical time.
“This is a first and most important step in being able to treat many patients earlier than would have been possible using a manual process to find them and preventing the serious complications that may result in amputation.”
During the next phase of the trial at the trust, the characteristics extracted by the software in the cohort it identified, along with input from other sources, will be used to establish whether this process is effective in predicting which patients are most likely to develop the severe complications associated with DFD.
Mr Sandip Sarkar, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the trust, and Lead Clinician for the project, added: “Using this advanced AI technology, we are very excited about the possibility of being able to predict which patients are most likely to experience the worst consequences of DFD.
“This will enable us to focus our precious clinical resource on those patients likely to benefit most from early intervention, which will also reduce the burden on hard-pressed acute services. This is how we need to manage chronic disease in the post-Covid era.”
According to analysis from the charity Diabetes UK, there are more than 176 leg, toe or foot amputations every week in England, and diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic limb amputation in the UK. The estimated cost for the NHS in caring for patients with DFD was £1bn in 2014/15. The new technology could be a solution to help more patients with DFD, reducing the need for as many amputations for this condition.