Thousands of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are set to benefit from swifter diagnosis using artificial intelligence.
Six English universities in the northern region of Yorkshire are working with the country’s National Health Service develop the technology, which will cut months off waiting times.
Despite treatments being available for people with ADHD, long waiting lists in the UK have led to many being forced to put their lives on hold while they wait to see a consultant.
The project, the brainchild of Professor Grigoris Antoniou at the University of Huddersfield, harnesses AI technology to fast-track help for those with an obvious diagnosis.
“There are long and growing waiting lists, as people wait to be diagnosed and treated, and this can result in adverse effects on their work, their social life and their family life,” said Professor Antoniou.
He said one reason for the lengthening waiting time is the shortage of specialist clinicians able to make a full diagnosis.
“So, we set out to use AI to provide help with decisions. The idea is that the AI technology will be able to identify the clear-cut cases. In many cases, the data itself more or less tells us whether it is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ for further treatment.
“The technology is fully embedded in a clinical pathway, which ensures there will always be a clinician who can override what the AI says.”
Data routinely collected prior to an ADHD diagnosis is fed into an AI algorithm and produces three outcomes – yes or no to further treatment or an unclear result that requires further assessment of the patient.
Professor Antoniou said two types of AI technology had been harnessed for the project.
“One is machine-learning-based. We took data from previous cases and trained a prediction model,” he said.
“The second method is knowledge-based. We worked with clinical experts and asked what their diagnosis would be if they are faced with this data. We then encoded this knowledge.”
Professor Antoniou is a globally acknowledged expert in AI and has already helped to develop its potential to predict suicide risk in mental health patients.
The AI solution to diagnosis was developed by Professor Antoniou with his collaborator Professor Marios Adamou, a consultant psychiatrist at South West Yorkshire NHS Trust and a visiting professor at the University of Huddersfield.
“It is the close interplay of AI and medical expertise that has made this development possible,” Professor Antoniou said.
“It is important to have such interdisciplinary collaborations between computer science and health science at Huddersfield.”
The technology could result in significant cost savings for the National Health Service.
The project is being backed by Grow MedTech, which provides specialist support for innovation in medical technology, involving a consortium that includes Leeds, York, Bradford, Sheffield Hallam and Leeds Beckett universities.
Its assistance will enable Professor Antoniou and his collaborators to explore the commercialisation of the product.
The work is taking place at the university’s Planning, Autonomy and Representation of Knowledge Research Centre under the leadership of Professor Antoniou with researchers Ilias Tachmazidis and Tianhua Chen.
The UK has an estimated 1.5 million adults with ADHD. In adults, it can cause emotional symptoms that include extreme irritability, low self-esteem and a sense of insecurity, trouble staying motivated and hypersensitivity to criticism. These problems can result in poor organisational skills, trouble starting and finishing projects, and chronic lateness.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also said that people with ADHD were more likely to be involved in criminal behaviour or become suicidal.