9th October 2019


Patient safety comes from a diverse health team

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Diversity is vital for patient protection when developing new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), experts have said.

Two members of the Shuri Network, Heather Caudle and Ijeoma Azodo, stressed the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive team, to prevent ‘unconscious bias’ being built into technology and potentially placing patients at risk.

The Shuri Network aims to develop a more inclusive leadership within the NHS that reflects the diversity of the workforce and support career progression of black and minority ethnic (BAME) women.

The pair spoke at the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) conference at ExCel London, about the link between diversity and patient safety.

Heather Caudle, Chief Nursing Officer at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “In health what we have done really well is developed multidisciplinary teams when looking at the patient.

“I think our technology colleagues are the next member of our multidisciplinary teams. If you think about AI and these new ways of doing things, how are we including the creators and the developers when thinking about patient care?

“We will have unintended consequences of artificial intelligence that hard-wires things like unconscious biases, that we are only going to treat people that are this age, this weight, this colour, because that’s how we think.

“Having that diversity on the team will help.”

Ijeoma Azodo, the honorary clinical tutor at the University of Edinburgh, believes the NHS will be in a position to develop technology that’s safe as well as inclusive. She said: “We’re starting with ethnic minority diversity but what we are really looking for is an experience that’s diverse in terms of where people come from, how people think and what people want so we can build and NHS and technology that we use that incorporates all of those facets into our systems.

“We need an environment of trust and safety. We need everyone from the support workers to the doctors to the IT team to be able to speak up about things we are building that are unsafe, inappropriate and inequitable for our patients.

“We want to make sure we aren’t building things that are exclusive, we want to be able to interrogate our systems, we want something that is transparent, and we want something that’s accountable.

“Sit down with the tech department and speak to them collaboratively about what’s going to be the best thing to solve that we need done for the patient.”