How AI is Transforming Healthcare

How AI is Transforming Healthcare

In 2023, 23.9% of total tax revenue in Canada will be spent on healthcare. That’s $331 billion, according to Sue Paish, CEO of Canada’s Digital Cluster, who moderated a panel at ALL IN on how AI is transforming the healthcare sector.

“That’s the second-highest spend in OECD countries on healthcare,” said Paish. “(But) we are the second-lowest performer of the 11 OECD countries when it comes to healthcare outcomes. That’s not a good story.”

But here’s the good story: “We have the brains, we have the ability, we have the experience and we have the determination to change that,” she said.

During the panel, Paish spoke to leading AI players about how they’re transforming the healthcare sector with AI-powered diagnostics, personalized treatment plans and data-driven medical research.

The $331 billion spent on healthcare this year doesn’t include the cost of home care. “The home care system is a little bit like the poor cousin of healthcare,” said Naomi Goldapple, senior vice-president of data and intelligence with AlayaCare.

“But that can’t be any longer because the silver tsunami is not only coming, it’s here,” she said. “The baby boomers are all getting older. And there simply aren’t enough of us to take care of them.”

People tend to age better at home, rather than in an institution or a hospital—and there’s a movement to help people age with dignity and have a better quality of life at home. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector has faced an acute labour shortage, particularly when it comes to caregivers.

AlayaCare is using predictive modeling to see which caregivers are at risk of leaving, so they can try to mitigate that.

“One of the ways we do that is using a schedule and route optimization model so that we can make sure everybody is spending much less time getting to visits and spending more time at visits—and also making them happier because they have schedules that they enjoy,” said Goldapple.

AI is also being used to bring the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.

“In this new world, where our treatments are getting more personalized, we all need to think about how to bridge biological science with data science,” said Justin Mallet, health system partner, artificial intelligence, with Roche Canada.

But this requires a lot of data. “We see AI and ML as an enabler for patients, for caregivers, for the system, to make better, faster decisions,” said Mallet.

In 2020, Roche launched an AI Centre of Excellence that brings together expertise from Amii, MILA and the Vector Institute, Canada’s three national AI institutes. Key projects include health data analytics, biomarker discovery, drug development and building AI talent within health and life sciences.

Combining data sources is key to improving the quality of life for patients and healthcare workers, according to Kathy Malas, CEO of the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM)—one of two major healthcare networks in Montréal.

AI-powered GrayOS, developed by Montréal-based startup Gray Oncology Solutions in partnership with the CHUM, has helped improve access and shorten waiting lists for cancer patients, while freeing clinicians to spend more time caring for patients. At one infusion clinic alone, they’ve seen a 5% increase in efficiency, which translates to 11 hours of additional capacity.

The next challenge will be scale the solution beyond oncology—and to integrate AI responsibly and ethically. To do that, “we need to develop competencies and knowledge,” said Malas. The entire healthcare ecosystem—including clinicians, managers, researchers and entrepreneurs—needs to understand the implications of AI and how to use it responsibly. 

Major AI Healthcare Initiative Launched at ALL IN

Artificial intelligence is being used to revolutionize patient care, disease management and even drug discovery.

During the conference, SCALE AI announced $21 million in investments at nine hospitals across Canada through the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. In its 2021 budget, the federal government committed $125 million over five years toward efforts to drive the adoption of AI in Canada.

Projects include patient care management, forecasting for resource and workflow operations, and virtual triaging and queue management to help resolve complex challenges in Canadian healthcare.

One such project is a partnership between 11 hospitals and organizations, including The Ottawa Hospital and the Canadian Cancer Society, which received $2.9 million to develop an AI solution that will meet key challenges in oncology: helping to predict patient flow, proactively plan capacity and coordinate multiple services a patient requires over their care period.

SCALE AI is working with several partners to accelerate the rapid adoption and integration of AI in healthcare. “Through this initiative, AI ecosystem players and hospitals are mobilizing to meet today’s specific health challenges and have a profound effect on healthcare in Canada,” said Julien Billot, CEO of SCALE AI.

These technological advances will have tangible, measurable effects on hospital activities by helping to improve the patient’s journey through reduced wait times, streamlined logistics and more efficient daily resource management.

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