Publication Digital Growth and productivity Health and Care 23 November, 2023

Smart prescribing: harnessing technology in the fight against AMR

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This is a Reform Scholar publication by Dr Timothy Rawson


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – the “silent pandemic” – is already responsible for a significant burden of death, disability and prolonged illness globally. It is a major challenge to the UK’s health security, and is listed as a “chronic risk” in the National Risk Register.

If left unaddressed, the growing resistance of bacteria, viruses and fungi to the drugs commonly used to treat them threatens modern medicine, and with it, our ability to carry out standard medical procedures. 

The UK has been a world-leader in the fight against AMR, but further action is needed if we are to slow its spread. 

One of the key levers in tackling the growth of AMR lies in prescribing: antibiotics are often misused or prescribed for infections that do not require antibiotic treatment. This paper makes the compelling case for a smarter, more personalised approach to prescribing enabled by AI and other technologies.  

Deploying technology at an earlier stage of the decision-making process can support clinicians in making more appropriate decisions about the use of antibiotics, and therefore reduce the incidence of inappropriate prescribing. 

And, as Tim points out, embracing this approach provides an opportunity to combine tackling this huge threat to the nation’s health with the Government’s ambitions to establish the UK as an AI superpower. Fusing these two vital priorities should be seen as an exciting proposition across government, the NHS and the wider health and technology ecosystems.