Sask. AI X-ray project first of its kind in Canada
August 24, 2022
PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – An artificial intelligence (AI) project is expanding healthcare for remote communities in Saskatchewan. Synthesis Health has supplied Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation with portable X-ray machines. It’s the first in Canada, according to the company’s chief medical officer, Deepak Kaura (pictured).
“A lot of these communities have never been x-rayed, you know, patients have traveled eight or 10 hours to get x-rays, and most don’t travel,” he told CTV News.
Genevieve St Denis, health manager for the area, said it was exciting for the community.
“Now that we have these portable x-ray machines in our communities, with this artificial intelligence platform, we are able to provide immediate diagnostics and interventions to our First Nations population and these isolated communities.”
Kaura said it all started in 2008.
“I started thinking about artificial intelligence and the impact it could have on healthcare, especially as an image-based specialist. I wanted to see how effective computer vision could be in analyzing the problems I see every day. and built the first set of algorithms back then, and you know, it was pretty impressive.”
He began pursuing the idea further in Calgary and then moved overseas to Qatar.
“I did a lot more machine learning while I was there. And then moved back to Canada,” he said.
He entered into discussions with then-CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Department, Scott Livingston.
“He said, ‘Tuberculosis is on the rise and we don’t have enough sub-specialists, we don’t have enough digitization and we don’t have additional units.’ So I said, “Well, what if we built you an artificial intelligence algorithm that would allow us to do this work and allow you to do this work?”
“We validated it in Saskatchewan with 28 physicians. And then we got Health Canada approval in the middle of COVID,” Kaura said. “It was the first AI algorithm and first radiology ever approved by Health Canada.”
He said they approached Fuji to build the machines and figured out a way to put X-ray images on a cloud for technicians to access.
“The AI algorithm does this in a matter of seconds and sends the analysis back to the front-line nurse or doctor,” Kaura said.
“We are able to provide on-site clinical diagnostic services to our First Nations members who live in remote communities,” St. Denis said. “So right on the reserve, in primary care clinics, we can offer this service instead of having to send the patient out, and sometimes drive six, eight hours to some place like a hospital to get that x-ray. We can make it that day.”
Kaura said they hope to expand the project to other communities, including Onion Lake.
“We think the future is quite remarkable because this is just the beginning of all the machine learning work we’re currently doing with Synthesis.”
Source: Canada Today