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NHSX supports smartphone tech for detecting early kidney disease

A smartphone app that utilises AI is set to help NHS patients transmit test results to GPs within ‘minutes’.

The ‘pioneering’ technology from – called CKD Early Detection Service – transforms a smartphone camera into a ‘clinical-grade tool’ that detects early kidney disease.

The tech is part of the first round of the AI in Health and Care Award programme, co-managed by the Accelerated Access Collaborative, NHSX and the National Institute for Health Research.

Supported by NHSX, over 3,500 patients have currently received these home-testing kits, as part of plan to eventually distribute the tech to 500,000 people across the next three years.

The service pairs a traditional testing kit with a smartphone app, enabling patients to ‘test, scan and transmit’ their results to GPs, from home.

The kit includes a urine dipstick and collection cup for patients to use, as well as video, audio and text guidance from the app on how to use the smartphone camera to scan the dipstick onto a colour-board for image recognition.’s app then uses ‘AI and colourmetric analysis’ to read the results as a lab device would and sends these to the patient’s GP practice. Results are shared with clinicians digitally through electronic medical records.

Furthermore, accessibility issues such as camera type and lighting conditions aren’t believed to impact on the ability to produce results.

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, told “Artificial intelligence holds enormous potential for the NHS and in many areas is already providing radical benefits for patients and clinicians.

“The use of this latest testing technology is another huge step forward enabling us to provide earlier diagnosis of disease and improve patient care and treatment outcomes while also freeing up NHS staff.”

Currently, it’s reported that one in 10 people in the UK are affected by chronic kidney disease. But this new tech-supported testing ability could encourage more crucial early diagnosis and reduce hospital and GP surgery footfall, especially for at-risk patients with conditions like diabetes.

It’s hoped that although these tech-supported test kits cost more than regular urine tests at around £12.10 per person (excluding VAT), they could prove valuable by increasing chronic kidney disease diagnoses but reducing serious cases through early detection and intervention.

One independent evaluation by York Health Economics also claims that the tech could potentially save over 11,000 lives and £660 million over five years, if rolled out nationally.

In December 2020, HTN highlighted some of the innovations who recently joined the AI in Health and Care programme, through our feature ‘From AI to support colonoscopies to strokes: the diverse applications of AI in healthcare’.