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Heart Checks While You Shop: NHS Announces Plan To Have Pharmacies Check Shoppers’ Heart Health In Bid To Cut Deaths

Shoppers will be offered on-the-spot NHS heart checks to detect signs of killer conditions.

High street pharmacies will be overhauled under the national plan to prevent up to 150,000 heart attacks and strokes within a decade.

The country’s most senior doctor said the new approach would be a “game changer,” helping to identify risks far earlier, with advice on lifestyle overhauls as well as targeted medication.

Pilot schemes have seen some types of strokes fall by a quarter.

From October, chemists will begin rolling out the “rapid detection service,” which includes mobile electrocardiograms to spot irregular heartbeats, as well as checks on blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

If successful, the scheme will be rolled out to every pharmacist in the country within three years.

An NHS sign is pictured at St Thomas’ Hospital  Credit: AFP

The plans aim to identify those at risk far earlier, when treatment and lifestyle changes are most likely to be effective.

Pharmacists will be expected to dole out advice on exercise and diet, with results passed directly to GP practices, who can prescribe the right medication.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, said: “Heart disease and strokes dramatically cut short lives, and leave thousands of people disabled every year, so rapid detection of killer conditions through high street heart checks will be a game-changer.”

The plans, launched to coincide with the world’s biggest heart conference, follow proposals to scrap “one size fits all” health MOTs at GP surgeries.  In future, GPs will be expected to increasingly target checks on those thought to be at greatest risk, due to their medical and genetic history, while routine screening tests are offered by pharmacists.

Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer, with deaths from heart attacks, strokes and circulatory diseases accounting for 160,000 deaths in the UK every year.

More than 7 million people are living with heart and circulatory diseases.

Speaking at the European Society for Cardiology (ESC) conference, in Paris, Professor Bryan Williams, author of its guidelines on disease prevention, said: “This is hugely important. Heart disease and stroke remain the most important cause of premature death and disability and we have the means to prevent the many of them.

“The key is early detection of those at risk and doing this is a way that is convenient for the public, not having to wait for a GP appointment that could be done simply the local pharmacy.”

Chemists will begin rolling out the “rapid detection service,” which includes mobile electrocardiograms to spot irregular heartbeats, as well as checks on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA

Yesterday Dexter Canoy, clinical epidemiologist from the University of Oxford, presented research showing that raised blood pressure at the age of 40 is a clear indicator of the risk of suffering heart attacks and strokes in later life.

He said: “We need to find ways to target the people who aren’t seeing their GP regularly – the middle-aged men who think they are healthy, but haven’t actually been checked.”

“If opening it up to pharmacies and shopping malls means that people are more likely to have their blood pressure checked, that could make a significant difference,” he said, calling for proper evaluation of the measures.

The checks are part of a new £13 billion five year contract for community pharmacists which aims to expand their roles and offer earlier detection of diseases.

More than 100 pharmacies in Cheshire and Merseyside have begun offering blood pressures screening services, under a local initiative, backed by the British Heart Foundation, with plans to recruit more than 200 more chemists to the service as it expands.

Medics said widespread use of the monitors by pharmacies, hospitals and individual patients could cut costs, speed diagnosis and avoid preventable hospital admissions.

Pilot schemes in Lambeth and Southwark in south London identified more than 1,400 patients suffering from atrial fibrillation – an irregular heart rhythm –  who should have been taking blood thinning drugs, but were not. In total, 1,300 of the patients have now been put on the medication, leading to a 25 per cent reduction in the rate of strokes linked to their heart condition.

Keith Ridge, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, said: “This new contract makes the most of the clinical skills of local pharmacists and establishes pharmacies across England as local health hubs – open in the evenings and at weekends – where people can go for an ever-increasing range of clinical health checks and treatment.”

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Millions of people in England are living with conditions such as high blood pressure which, if left untreated, significantly increase the risk of having a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke. Reaching more people and encouraging them to check their blood pressure, working with them to lower it where necessary, will play an absolutely critical role in saving lives in the coming years.”

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Source: Heart checks while you shop: NHS announces plan to have pharmacies check shoppers’ heart health in bid to cut deaths

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Researchers Find A Web Of Factors Behind Multiple Sclerosis

As the story goes, nearly 80 years ago on the Faroe Islands — a stark North Atlantic archipelago 200 miles off the coast of Scotland — a neurologic epidemic may have washed, or rather convoyed, ashore. Before 1940 the incidence of multiple sclerosis on the Faroes was near, if not actually, zero, according to the tantalizing lore I recall from medical school. Yet in the years following British occupation of the islands during World War II, the rate of MS rose dramatically, leading many researchers to assume the outbreak was caused by some unknown germ transmitted by the foreign soldiers……..

Source: Researchers Find A Web Of Factors Behind Multiple Sclerosis

Artificial Intelligence Will Improve Medical Treatments – Jennifer Kite Powell

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A digital health company from the UK wants to change the way a patient interacts with a doctor through the creation of an artificial intelligence (AI) doctor in the form of an AI chatbot.

Babylon Health raised close to $60 million in April 2017 to diagnose illnesses with an AI chatbot on your smartphone. Around the same time, Berlin and London based start up Ada announced its push into the AI chat bot space.

“The news that Babylon Health has raised near £50M to build an ‘AI doctor’ is a promising development for the health industry; trials are currently ongoing in London, where Babylon’s tech is being used as an alternative to the non-emergency 111 number,” said Dr. Joseph Reger, CTO, Fujitsu EMEIA.

The rapid commercialization of machine learning and big data has helped bring AI to the forefront of healthcare and life sciences and is set to change how the industry diagnoses and treats disease.

In a 2016 study by Frost & Sullivan, the market for AI in healthcare is projected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021, a 40% growth rate. The report goes on to say that clinical support from AI will strengthen medical imaging diagnosis processes and using AI solutions for hospital workflows will enhance care delivery. Frost & Sullivan also reports that AI has the potential to improve outcomes by 30 to 40 percent at the same time the costs of treatment by as much as 50%.

“AI is now disrupting how businesses operate and will change the way that organizations create real value for the customer or patient. Industries can reap huge benefits by developing cooperative models that can quickly combine businesses needs with AI tech,” said Reger.

In their Fit for Digital research, Fujitsu identified that 67% of business leaders believed that partnering with technology experts is essential.

AI In Chinese Hospitals

China has one of the highest lung cancer rates in the world. Forbes reported in April 2017 that there were more than 700,000 new cases of lung cancer in the country in 2015 and there are 80,000 radiologists in China who diagnose around 1.4 billion radiology scans a year.

At Shanghai Changzheng Hospital in China, radiologists have been utilizing AI technology from Infervison to improve medical diagnosis in reading CT scans and x-rays and identify suspicious lesions and nodules in lung cancer patients.

The company, which partners GE Healthcare, Cisco, and Nvidia and works with 20 tertiary grade A hospitals in China, pairs a computerized tomography (CT) scan with AI that learns the core characteristics of lung cancer and then detects the suspected cancer features through different CT image sequences. Earlier diagnosis allows doctors to prescribe treatments earlier.

In a statement, Chen Kuan, founder, and CEO, Infervision said that in no way will this technology ever replace doctors.

“It’s intended to eliminate much of the highly repetitive work and empower doctors to help them deliver faster and more accurate reports,” said Reger.

Fujitsu’s Reger says the process of machine learning is considered to be time-saving but will only be successful if data is implemented as the lifeblood of the system.

“In this instance, data will enable AI machines to learn and understand new medical functions, and then critically provide humans e.g. doctors with the necessary information to diagnose problems,” added Reger. “The potential application of AI in healthcare could even grow to possibly predict future illnesses even before they manifest, improving the quality of services for patients. All of this will not be achieved without vast swathes of data, an acceptance that AI will supplement jobs, not replace them, and the overall investment in the technology itself.

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