Staff to be trained in using AI to diagnose lung disease

Lewisham is the latest area to pilot the use of an AI-powered device to diagnose COPD

4th July 2024 about a 3 minute read
“This project aims to bridge that gap by developing resources to equip clinicians with the necessary understanding of how N-Tidal’s AI-driven results are generated and how they can be effectively incorporated into clinical decision-making." Dr Matea Deliu, associate medical director, One Health Lewisham

A project has been launched in Lewisham to develop educational resources to train health care professionals in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is a chronic lung condition where the flow of air to the lungs is obstructed. Normally patients are diagnosed using spirometry, which requires patients to exhale forcefully into a machine. This can be difficult for some patients and requires trained personnel, resulting in delays to diagnosis. One in eight respondents to a survey by the charity Asthma + Lung UK reported waiting more than 10 years for a diagnosis.

There is, however, an AI alternative. N-Tidal, from the company TidalSense, is a handheld device that requires patients to breathe normally into a mouthpiece for 75 seconds. The device will analyse the pattern of CO2 in their breath, using AI to determine the likelihood that they have COPD.

One Health Lewisham, an integrated community provider that delivers GP services in south east London, has deployed N-Tidal, and 10 health care professionals are now being trained to use it alongside existing diagnostic practice. The six-month project is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Dr Matea Deliu, an academic GP and associate medical director for One Health Lewisham, said: “This project aims to bridge that gap by developing resources to equip clinicians with the necessary understanding of how N-Tidal’s AI-driven results are generated and how they can be effectively incorporated into clinical decision-making.

“The development of this training also has the potential to serve as a framework for future AI-powered medical tools.”

Paving the way for future smooth adoption

The project will focus on three key areas:

  • Real-world implementation. N-Tidal will be used alongside existing practices within One Health Lewisham, which runs NHS@Home, a virtual ward enabling people to have their health monitored in their own home. This will allow health care professionals, including GPs, paramedics and nurses, to become familiar with the device and its results in a controlled environment.
  • Needs assessment. Health care professionals involved in the project will be interviewed to identify specific areas where training is needed.
  • Development of training resources. Based on the needs assessment, the project will create video and online training modules specifically tailored to N-Tidal. These resources will be readily available for use in any setting where N-Tidal is deployed.

Dr Ameera Patel, chief executive of TidalSense, said: “This programme will ensure we can collaboratively develop the training resources required to enable GPs to understand and access our technologies, ultimately leading to faster diagnosis for patients.

“Furthermore, the framework developed through this project can pave the way for the smooth adoption of future AI technologies in health care.”

The N-Tidal device is already in use in the NHS in Hull, as part of its COPD diagnostic service.

The technology has also been piloted in Oxford by GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists, and by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which used N-Tidal to diagnose and monitor respiratory conditions in children.

An NHS England report published last year said that  educating health care workers to develop, implement and use AI effectively and safely requires specialised product-specific training.

FCC Insight

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious, incurable lung condition affecting more than a million people in the UK. It is also the third leading cause of death worldwide. The use of a spirometer to diagnose the condition is challenging for some patients, and requires specially-trained personnel. The ability to use an AI-powered device, N-Tidal, should result in a speedier diagnosis, as well as being less demanding for patients. It’s encouraging to see the technology being piloted in different parts of the NHS, and we hope successful trials will lead to it being adopted more widely, cutting waiting lists and improving outcomes for patients.