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by Sofia Villegas
31 August 2023
University of Glasgow finds AI-diagnosed heart failure could save lives

The discovery is the first outcome from the OPERA collaborative study

University of Glasgow finds AI-diagnosed heart failure could save lives

The University of Glasgow has completed a study that it says shows AI’s potential to significantly reduce waiting times for heart failure diagnosis by over 300 per cent.

Presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), the discovery was made as part of the OPERA study, a collaborative research programme from the University of Glasgow, AstraZeneca, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and NHS Golden Jubilee that explores the effectiveness of AI on people suffering from heart failure.

The partnership found that AI-interpreted echocardiograms reduce scan analysis time from 30 minutes to one, making it more efficient than machines operated by a human.

This discovery is the first outcome from the collaborative research group, which began last year with the aim of transforming the NHS by testing new digital technologies.

University of Glasgow academic Dr Ross Campbell, who presented the findings at the ESC conference, said: “Our breaking new OPERA results show that investing in AI in healthcare could offer remarkable benefits to both patients and the NHS.

“We have shown that AI can interpret echocardiogram images accurately and given AI can produce a report in a fraction of the time, this could really make a difference in allowing us to make early diagnosis of heart failure possible.”

With a significant increase in diagnostic test waiting times, the discovery arrives at a critical time for the NHS. Figures from Public Health Scotland revealed that the number of people waiting for diagnostic tests has risen by almost 72 per cent from the pre-pandemic average.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “I’ve lost count of how many of my constituents get in touch to tell of long NHS waits, not only for treatment, but even just to get a vital scan or test.

“Every day, people are waiting in pain and uncertainty, whilst many NHS staff are beyond breaking point. The health secretary needs to replace the failed NHS Recovery Plan as we approach the winter months or things risk spiralling out of control.

“We need solutions like a burnout prevention strategy, which my party has proposed but was voted down by this SNP/Green government, as well as a health and social care staff assembly. The NHS needs new hope, and it needs it now.”

In Scotland, 48,000 people have heart failure, with experts estimating thousands more unknowingly have the condition. Researchers believe the finding could help reduce the risk of hospitalisation for heart failure, simultaneously alleviating pressures on the healthcare system.

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