The AI summit at Bletchley Park has concluded, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak celebrating it as a major diplomatic success, emphasizing the international declaration and multilateral agreement forged during the event around the future of AI. However, press headlines have focused on sensationalism, drawing attention away from the tangible benefits that AI can deliver in the here and now. While the risks which have been discussed have to be taken seriously in the short to medium term, there should be optimism on how AI can transform the health of the UK workforce and the population at large, ultimately boosting the economy.
Addressing Workforce Health Roadblocks
The pressing issue of declining health taking a toll on workforce activity, productivity and overall economic prosperity underscores the significance of the AI Summit. It reignites the need to explore how AI can be harnessed to not only enhance our healthcare system’s efficiency but also to address extended waiting lists for treatment. AI has the potential to bring about improvements in health, well-being and ultimately, the quality of our lives. Nevertheless, to garner widespread support for AI, much like any emerging technology, addressing concerns about safety risks and the erosion of societal trust will be imperative.
When addressing concerns surrounding AI replacing the workforce, it’s encouraging that leaders recognize the potential danger AI poses and are exploring how to utilize the technology to create and improve jobs (not just replace them) while boosting worker well-being and productivity. A report from Goldman Sachs warns AI has the potential to replace around 300 million full-time jobs. However, the report also notes that AI could also generate new jobs and boost productivity, eventually increasing the annual value of global goods and services by 7%.
Improving Data Sharing and Analysis
As companies across the world are compelled to cut costs, improve efficiency and drive profits, it is often workers’ well-being which is left behind. While there has been extensive debate on how AI will affect workers’ tasks, it’s in businesses’ best interest to keep employee well-being and productivity top of mind.
Worker health can come in many forms. Across Europe, a recent study shows 25% of workers have been affected by mental health, resulting in a drop in their productivity and performance. In a recent Deloitte report, 42% of corporate executives anticipate that by 2027, insights from psychology, sociology and behavioral science facilitated by AI-powered apps and dashboards will play a pivotal role in enhancing organizational performance. Many AI-driven solutions are becoming available, such as LiveSmart, Caterpillar Health, Unmind, LifeWorks and Lyfe, which can help to detect signs of deteriorating health in workforces and provide data which could inform workplace health initiatives, community support programs and regulatory reform.
AI has potential to transform approaches with business-led, evidence-based health interventions, identifying workplace hazards, streamlining workflows and supporting the “economically inactive.” Such applications can reduce employee absenteeism, promote workforce resilience and enable stronger business performance.
Connecting Health-Relevant Data
For the UK to establish appropriate AI safeguards, developers, academics and the public and private sector must also consider the benefits that FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data offers for improved health and productivity outcomes; for example, patient records can be connected across the healthcare system and with external service providers, so that even when people move or practices close, they can benefit from more preventative health interventions and earlier, more accurate diagnoses while having a more seamless, consistent experience.
In workforce health, AI can speed proactive business-led health interventions and predictive prevention. With ONS labor market data showing millions of potential employees’ long-term health conditions are preventing them from work, a shift towards more proactive preventative health harnessing AI-powered tools could improve healthy life expectancy and reduce health inequalities, leading to greater societal and economic resilience.
As concerns about AI’s impact on jobs and privacy will persist, it is imperative for regulators and policymakers to address these worries through measures to ensure responsible and transparent use of AI; they need to carefully navigate the path between innovation and safety to harness the full potential of AI to enhance business performance and resilience as well as employees’ long-term health and well-being.