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Toronto (Oct. 4, 2019) - For the million plus Canadians living with heart failure, Dr. Heather Ross is more than "just" a doctor, she is a co-inventor of tools that just might turn the tide against the fastest-rising cardiovascular disease in the country.
Along with UHN's eHealth Innovation team, Dr. Ross, Division Head of Cardiology, the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, created Medly, a digital tool that easily allows patients to measure their weight, blood pressure and heart rate and send it electronically to a nurse who is carefully monitoring their care.
"Medly has extended my dad's life," says Judy Nyman. "If my dad wasn't using this app every day, I wouldn't know just from looking at him, how he's actually doing. Without the easy ability to have constant contact I'm not sure my dad would still be alive. I wish more people had access to this technology, because it is life-saving. I love this app."
Judy Nyman may just get her wish. Soon, the Medly app may get a turbo boost in the form of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm that will go way beyond simple measurements into the world of predictive abilities. The initiative is being supported by the Vector Institute, an independent, not-for-profit research institute focused on leading edge machine learning. Vector has chosen Medly to be one of a series of Pathfinder Projects aimed at bringing AI into practice in the health sector.
"We chose Medly based on the strength of Dr. Ross and UHN's cardiovascular team," says Alison Paprica, Vector's Vice President of Health Strategy and Partnerships. "It was also very important to us to have a health AI application that helps people stay out of hospital. Medly does that already, and sophisticated AI can make Medly even better."
Dr. Bo Wang, the Lead Artificial Intelligence Scientist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, Vector Faculty Member and Canada CIFAR AI Chair, has been tasked with taking more than 98,000 patient days worth of data and unraveling the mysteries using mathematical equations that will change healthcare as we know it.
"The new algorithm will provide more accurate alerts, thereby reducing the frequency of false positives," says Dr. Wang. "It is very exciting to see what we have developed, implemented in a real-world setting that helps patients, on a daily basis."
Medly, in its current iteration is already serving more than 300 patients. With virtually no cost to the patient and managed by one nurse, Medly is affordable.
And for some that might be enough. For Dr. Heather Ross and her co-creator Dr. Joe Cafazzo, Executive Director of eHealth Innovation, UHN, good enough isn't their end goal.
"When we're talking about an epidemic of heart failure we want to be able to scale the technology," says Dr. Ross. "This would cost a fraction of what is currently spent managing this disease. If we can move the dial from $3,000 a patient annually, to $1,000 just think of how many patients we could serve and serve well."
The Vector Institute is an independent, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing artificial intelligence, excelling in machine and deep learning. The Vector Institute's vision is to drive excellence and leadership in Canada's knowledge, creation, and use of AI to foster economic growth and improve the lives of Canadians.
The Vector Institute is funded by the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada through the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy administered by CIFAR, and industry sponsors from across the Canadian economy.
University Health Network consists of Toronto General, recently voted one of the Top 10 Hospitals in the World according to Newsweek Magazine, and Toronto Western Hospital, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and the Michener Institute of Education at UHN. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source of discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.
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