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Researchers to explore new uses for AI in Alberta's health-care system

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Funding for Alberta researchers and tech companies will take the province one step closer to incorporating more artificial intelligence (AI) technology into the health-care system.

Alberta Innovates, the province’s innovation Crown corporation, announced $9.5 million in funding to help develop technology that can “create better care, support doctors and improve diagnoses and treatment,” during an event on Wednesday.

The Enabling Better Health Through Artificial Intelligence program was launched in the fall with a budget of $8 million, but due to the high number of proposals submitted, Alberta Innovates provided an additional $1.5 million to the program.

Calgary-based Mikata Health Inc. is developing an AI scribe technology intending to automate and streamline paperwork and data entry for doctors and other clinicians.

“This will free up doctors to focus on patients, improving the patient experience while also reducing physician workloads and burnout,” Alberta Innovates said in a news release.

The company was granted $800,000 for the project.

The money will also fund 10 research projects at Alberta universities.

Five projects at the University of Alberta will explore how to use AI to improve 811 Health Link, better predict opioid overdoses and streamline diagnostic imaging.

Another five projects at the University of Calgary will look into using AI to identify and treat stroke patients, help prevent hospital-transmitted infection outbreaks and understand the social determinants of health.

One other private company, Symbiotic AI, was handed nearly $800,000 for its work developing an AI support tool for patients with coronary artery disease.

"Our program provides the necessary research funding to help companies and innovators identify and overcome roadblocks to the broader use of artificial intelligence,” said Laura Kilcrease, the CEO of Alberta Innovates.

“The goal is faster and better health care for Albertans and the development of new technologies right here in Alberta that can be exported around the world."

Throughout the research process, Alberta Innovates said it would coordinate with a committee for ethical and technical advice.

The committee will also help move the research into use in Alberta’s health system.

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