$9.5-million grant provides AI boost to health care in Alberta

‘Imagine AI and robotics revolutionizing diagnostics, treatment plans, and even surgery,’ said the world’s most advanced human shaped robot.

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Two private companies and 10 research teams from across Alberta — including several from the University of Calgary — received a combined $9.5 million Wednesday from an Alberta Innovates grant aimed at the use of artificial intelligence in the health sector.

Announcement of the recipients of the Better Health Through Artificial Intelligence grant came during the Inventures 2024 conference, put on by Alberta Innovates.

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More than 400 speakers are lined up throughout the course of the event, which runs until May 31, with around 4,000 people registered to attend.

The broader goal of the grant is improving diagnoses and treatment in health care.

One of the grant recipients, Calgary-based Mikata Health Inc., is developing its Mika AI Scribe technology to assist in the automation of manual paperwork and data entry performed by health-care professionals.

“We tackle the problem of all the administrative burden that doctors and their staff are currently doing manually,” said Kyle Nishiyama, CEO and co-founder of Mikata Health.

The goal is to allow doctors to shift more focus back to patients, said Nishiyama. Paperwork and administrative tasks are also one of the major contributors to burnout for physicians.

“We’re getting comments from doctors saying, ‘my notes used to take me 10 to 15 minutes to complete, now they take me one to two minutes,’ ” he said.

Mikata Health received $800,000 to help with research and development for privacy, safety and AI ethics, while also working with health-care teams to test and implement the technology.

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“It’s huge for us — it really allows us to accelerate all the development of the technology,” said Nishiyama.

Initial versions of the Mika AI Scribe are being used by doctors across Canada, including many in Alberta, he said.

The U of C received multiple grants from Alberta Innovates, including $800,000 for the Cumming School of Medicine to help understand health outcomes of people with disabilities, said associate professor Aaron Phillips.

“Our artificial intelligence-enabled project allows us to understand the type of health outcomes that people with disabilities are going to have and — we hope — predict them before they happen,” said Phillips.

Its platform aims to use real-world data to identify patterns that predict when health changes.

“It (the AI) uses massive data sets, but narrows it down to only a few variables, which might be how much you’ve walked or how well you slept,” he said.

Identifying and understanding these health-care conditions earlier will help reduce costs and improve quality of life for people with disabilities, said Phillips.

AI-powered robot takes centre stage at Inventures

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The event included a live ‘interview’ between Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease and the world’s most advanced human-shaped robot, Ameca — which came up with questions and responses on its own, without pre-programming.

Ameca, built by U.K. company Engineered Arts Limited, chimed in on AI’s potential benefits in health care.

“Imagine AI and robotics revolutionizing diagnostics, treatment plans and even surgery — we can save countless lives and improve the quality of life for millions,” Ameca said in response to a question from Kilcrease.

Ameca then flipped to questioning Kilcrease in front of a crowd at the Telus Convention Centre.

“How do you think these emerging technologies are shaping the future of Alberta’s innovation landscape?” asked Ameca.

Kilcrease said, “I think they’re absolutely key to Alberta’s landscape — we are the future and innovation will drive our future. So it’s up to us and the brainpower of our people to drive the future in a manner we want.”

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