AI-study aims to improve treatment for people with multiple long-term conditions

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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has awarded £2.5m to a new study, led by the University of Birmingham, that will use AI to produce computer programmes and tools which help doctors improve the choice of drugs for patients with clusters of multiple long-term conditions. 

The OPTIMAL study (OPTIMising therapies, discovering therapeutic targets and AI assisted clinical management for patients Living with complex multimorbidity), aims to understand how different combinations of long-term conditions and the medicines taken for these diseases interact over time to worsen or improve a patient’s health.

It will be led by Dr Thomas Jackson and Professor Krish Nirantharakumar at the University of Birmingham and carried out in collaboration with the University of Manchester, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, University of St Andrews,and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Jackson, asssociate professor in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: “Currently when people have multiple long-term conditions, we treat each disease separately. This means we prescribe a different drug for each condition, which may not help people with complex multimorbidity which is a term we use when patients have four or more long-term health problem.

“A drug for one disease can make another disease worse or better, however, presently we do not have information on the effect of one drug on a second disease. This means doctors do not have enough information to know which drug to prescribe to people with complex multimorbidity.”

The research is one of a number of studies being funded by the NIHR’s Artificial Intelligence for Multiple Long-Term Conditions (AIM) call, that combine data science and AI methods with health, care and social science expertise to identify new clusters of disease and understand how multiple long-term conditions develop over the life course.

The call will fund up to £23m of research in two waves, supporting a pipeline of research and capacity building in multiple long-term conditions research. The first wave has invested nearly £12m into three research collaborations, nine development awards and a research support facility, including the University of Birmingham-led study.

Lucy Chappell, NIHR chief executive, added: “This large-scale investment in research will improve our understanding of clusters of multiple long-term conditions, including how they develop over a person’s lifetime.

“Over time, findings from this new research will point to solutions that might prevent or slow down the development of further conditions over time. We will also look at how we shape treatment and care to meet the needs of people with multiple long-term conditions and carers.”

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