Artificial intelligence has the potential to change everything. By introducing seemingly unlimited scaling and the ability to quickly process extraordinary volumes of data, it’s allowing medical professionals, including physicians, nurses, and specialists, to learn vastly more, and vastly more quickly. We’ve heard a lot about how artificial intelligence is improving the diagnoses of ailments and performing as well or better than experts around the world when it comes to diagnosing breast cancer, detecting lung cancer, or classifying skin lesions.

Let’s look more closely at what’s happening in the Canadian space.

The Government of Canada awarded a grant of $49 million to create a Canada-wide health data platform. This grant will unite nearly 100 health care institutions and four artificial intelligence research labs to connect and analyze health data. AI will accelerate the research process and hopefully lead to better treatments for aggressive cancers. Vector Institute has already found a way to bring information from multiple sources into a single one and to annotate unlabeled images, a hugely important task for diagnosticians.

KIMIA Lab in Waterloo, Ontario is using artificial intelligence to evaluate massive quantities of diagnostic images to identify cases that are similar to whatever a healthcare worker is currently assessing. It’s a much quicker and much cheaper way of getting a second opinion from a qualified professional. If most of the related images are associated with a certain diagnosis, the healthcare worker can be confident about their own decisions.

Dialogue is a Montreal/Toronto company that uses chatbots to collect information from patients in a conversational way, much like how an in-person physician might. This information is then summarized, perhaps along with photos, and delivered to a physician in an automated and templated format. This automated collection of data also creates a digital dataset that can be mined for predictive purposes.

The British Columbia provincial healthcare system has implemented an online health app that combines artificial intelligence with face-to-face physician consultations. Though currently only residents of BC can consult with a physician, get a referral, or access their health records using the app, all Canadians can use the chatbot symptom checker. VirtualMED is a similar tool registered with the Collège des médecins du Québec. It’s an AI-based app that provides personalized diagnoses and treatment plans to Canadians.

Humber River Hospital in northwest Toronto uses AI to speed up the emergency room. By analyzing both historical and real-time data from hospital admissions, transfers, and discharges, AI accurately predicts how busy a emergency department will be two days ahead of time. This allows them to use resources more wisely, staff appropriately, and improve wait times. They are now able to help 29 more patients every day. ThoughtWire is one Canadian company that helps hospitals improve leverage real-time data to improve wait times and respond to patients faster.

The future looks extremely promising for AI in the healthcare industry, particularly within Canada. We can’t wait to see what other improvements are on the horizon.


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