8 April 2024

April is not just a month to welcome spring but also a crucial period marked as Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. And interestingly, nestled within “April” is “AI”; a nod, perhaps, to the exciting role Artificial Intelligence is playing in transforming healthcare, especially in the detection and treatment of bowel cancer.

Bowel Research UK is pleased to be working with companies to ensure patient voices are heard and to help shape how AI is deployed for detecting and treating bowel cancer. One project we’re working on is supporting Odin Vision, who are using AI to aid doctors in decision-making during colonoscopies. We are connecting their experts to our own experts by lived experience. Not only is it essential for researchers and charities to work together on these new technologies, but patients must also be included in the conversation.

Our Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) sessions play a crucial role in this regard. These focus groups provide invaluable insights into the patient experience and expectations from AI technologies. The group is shown the latest developments to the technology and how it works – for example, AI creates a green box around a polyp when it detects one. Members of the group learn about the technology and discuss not only what they think of its practical use in a clinical setting, but also their broader opinions of the use of AI in healthcare, what they are comfortable with and any concerns they have.

One person who attended Odin Vision’s PPI sessions shared the following thoughts on AI and patient involvement:

“I have been part of Odin Vision & Bowel Research UK for ever, so it seems, and undergone colonoscopies. I was happy and remain happy to be involved. I find it fascinating to contribute to new science and have already expressed views particularly about managing the AI results silently at the time of conducting tests, so not alerting the patient to the possibility of bowel cancer when undergoing a colonoscopy. I also feel it important that patients contribute to research as much as possible to be able to enrich outcomes and results.”

As more research is conducted in this area, it will become increasingly important to engage with patients, find out how they feel about the use of AI in healthcare, and ensure resulting new devices and technologies are developed into acceptable and helpful tools for those most impacted by them.

As technology continues to evolve, so too does our approach to healthcare. April may be Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, but it’s also a time to recognise and celebrate the role of the patient voice in paving the way for a brighter, healthier future for all.