The many problems with automated decision making

I have written about automated decision making or machine learning for Computer Weekly, in particularly the numerous problems with using it. The biggest set of issues is summed up nicely by Joanna Bryson of Bath and Princeton universities: “The reason machine learning is working so well is it is leveraging human culture. It’s getting the bad with the good.”

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Oxford vaccine test volunteers infected with typhoid

Volunteers in Oxford agreed to infect themselves with typhoid, as part of a recently-completed trial of a vaccination that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Oxford Vaccine Group, part of University of Oxford, gave 99 volunteers a drink laced with live Salmonella Typhi bacteria a month after vaccinating them. A third had been vaccinated with Typbar-TCV, a new conjugate typhoid vaccine, a third with established vaccine Typhim Vi and the rest with meningitis vaccine Menveo, which does not protect against typhoid. Neither the volunteers nor the doctors carrying out the injections knew who was getting which vaccine. Continue reading “Oxford vaccine test volunteers infected with typhoid”

Central Manchester tames clinical waste with tiger bags

Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has diverted 40% of its clinical waste into a cheaper-to-treat category, by introducing special ‘tiger’ bags.

The distinctive yellow and black striped bags are for clinical waste such as dressings and incontinence pads used by non-infectious patients. Previously all clinical waste had been heat-treated in an autoclave, but this process – which adds £100 per tonne to the cost – is now used only for waste from infectious patients. Amounts going through the more expensive process have fallen from around 130 tonnes in April 2014 to around 60 tonnes in December 2016. Continue reading “Central Manchester tames clinical waste with tiger bags”

After Brexit, the NHS will have to home-grow its people

The NHS was never going to get an extra £350m a week from Britain leaving the European Union. Boris Johnson, who spent the last few weeks on a bus pushing this claim, is a political corpse. But missing out on this money will not be the health service’s biggest Brexit challenge.

It looks likely that a post-Brexit Britain will control immigration more tightly than it has as part of the EU. As NHS England head Simon Stevens said during the referendum campaign, the health and care sectors depend heavily on 135,000 EU staff, about 5% of the total workforce. Continue reading “After Brexit, the NHS will have to home-grow its people”

What makes tumours tick? Genomics pave the way for tailored treatments

Advances in genetic testing are enabling healthcare professionals to personalise treatments for diseases and conditions including cancer, diabetes and HIV

It’s remarkable how genomics is being used in NHS healthcare, particularly in cancer, where tests now look at the DNA of actual tumours rather than patients. As I have covered previously for ComputerWeekly.com, lung cancer is being targeted through the National Lung Matrix Study. It’s now the case that 15-20% of lung cancer patients can receive targeted treatment based on genomics.

Gary Middleton, professor of medical oncology at the University of Birmingham and chief investigator of the National Lung Matrix Study, put it this way in my new article on this for Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network:

Lung cancer used to be a very simple disease. There were very few treatments and patients did very poorly. It’s really quite complicated now. Keeping on top of the new drugs and the new indications is difficult.

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