Date Published: 1 August 2005

Artificial intelligence to help intensive care doctors - Research from Sheffield University, UK

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Earlier today the University of Sheffield (UK) announced that a team of systems engineers from the university is developing an intelligent computer system able to imitate a doctor's brain in order to make treatment decisions for intensive care patients.

The purpose of such a system would be to take some of the workload from emergency medical teams by monitoring patients' vital signs and then evaluating and administering the right amounts of different drugs needed - a job usually carried out by specialist medical doctors.

The engineering team pursuing this work is led by Professor Mahdi Mahfouf of the University of Sheffield's Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering. This intelligent decision-support system would effectively duplicate the decision making processes of specialist medical doctors in Intensive Care Units (ITUs).

This would be achieved by the system modelling all the possible known interactions between different drugs and patients' bodies, and then making intelligent decisions about the best way to treat patients. This unique system could make decisions about the types and quantities of drugs to give to patients in a matter of seconds. It could help doctors to provide effective treatment for patients, by enabling them to concentrate on as many highly important tasks as possible.

Professor Mahdi Mahfouf of the University of Sheffield explains that it is the system's ability to learn, adapt, and make informed decisions which is unique:

" This new system not only monitors and treats critical patients, but it can also learn from the experiences of medical staff, who can override the machine at any time. If overridden, the system assimilates the doctor's input and uses the new information to make decisions about similar cases in the future.
_ This system is not intended to replace the work that doctors do in intensive care units. However it will provide them with invaluable assistance by evaluating the complex interactions of different drugs which are needed to treat patients and protect them against the danger of septic shock.

Concerns about such a system may center around the extent to which medical experts might begin to rely on an automatic system. That is, however good the computer system is, many patients may be concerned to receive personal attention from human experts - and it will be a matter for medical staff to ensure that this happens in addition to whatever technical assistance may become available.

Source: Sheffield University, England (UK). -

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