Illnesses diagnosed by computer in little more than 10 years, says Jeremy Hunt

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NHS patients could one day be diagnosed by computers instead of doctors, health leaders have said.

In a decade's time, patients may even be diagnosed with conditions before they are symptomatic as full genome sequencing becomes accessible to the masses, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

In the nearer future, patients will be able to make their wishes about organ donation and end-of-life care known through simple apps, he said.

Meanwhile, NHS England bosses described how artificial intelligence could help with diagnostics including x-rays and potential cancer specimens.

Speaking at the NHS Expo conference in Manchester, Mr Hunt said: "The changes in medical innovation are likely to transform humanity by as much in the next 25 years as the internet has in the last 25 years.

"So what might medicine look like when the NHS is 80 [in 2028]? Well, the first thing is we may well not be going to doctors for a diagnosis, we might be going to computers instead, who will be looking at the 300,000 biomarkers in every single drop of blood, mashing that with big data information about everyone else's biomarkers.

"And when we do go to a doctor, he or she may will be comparing your medical record with our fully sequenced genome and giving us much more accurate predictive information.

"We may will be in a world where if we show any symptoms of a disease, we consider that a sign of failure - because the name of the game will be to catch diseases when we are asymptomatic and we have a much better chance of being able to nip illness in the bud."

He also said that he wants patients to be able to view their GP interactions on an app "as simply as you can look at your entire order history on Amazon."

Patients should also be able to change their preferences for end-of-life care and organ donation through apps, he said.

"In organ donation where there is a big debate about opt-out and opt-in, we think that it should be as easy as loading up an app on your smartphone to change your preferences," he added.

"We are very keen to boost the number of organs that are available for transplant and we think this is a very easy way to do that and gives us the opportunity to prompt people to express a preference actively through technology that they might not otherwise do.

"And this is going to take a bit longer to get right but this also gives us the opportunity for people to express their end-of-life preferences online and in particular that crucial piece of information as to whether people would prefer to die at home or in a hospital setting. If we can get that information early enough and get it agreed early enough then it means we can give a much better end-of-life experience."