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AI in Healthcare Gets a Boost from Canada-Sweden Knowledge Exchange

Monday, June 24, 2024

Unity Health Toronto has effectively harnessed AI in its hospitals by maintaining a clear vision for value creation, meticulously planning for deployment from the prototype stage, and integrating clinicians and leaders – the people who will ultimately use the AI tools – into the development process.

Muhammad Mamdani, Vice President of Data Science and Advanced Analytics at Unity Health, and his team shared their expertise with Swedish regions through webinars this spring. Recently, a Canadian delegation visited Sweden to gather insights from Swedish experiences.

Mamdani envisions immense potential for collaboration between Sweden and Canada, emphasizing their shared values of curiosity and practical application:

"We share similar values—being inquisitive about what can be done and practical in achieving outcomes."

You have all the components to become a world leader in applying AI in healthcare in Sweden. You just need to integrate these components and establish operational infrastructure such as Machine Learning Operations platforms to put your models into production.

Muhammad Mamdani,
Vice-president of Data Science and Advanced Analytics at Unity Health Toronto

Muhammad Mamdani at Karolinska University Hospital in June 2024

Muhammad Mamdani participated in a panel at the EUHA Symposium – "Rethinking Healthcare Systems," hosted at Karolinska University Hospital.

Unity Health’s applied AI team has implemented over 50 AI models across its three hospitals, establishing itself as a global leader in this field. AI is one of the network's core strategic areas and is deeply ingrained in the network's operations.

Last week, AI Sweden welcomed a delegation from Unity Health as part of a collaboration initiated in the fall of 2023. The Canadian delegation met with Swedish hospitals and regions and visited innovation ecosystems in Gothenburg and Stockholm, including AstraZeneca at GoCo Health Innovation City, KI Science Park, and KI Innovations.

A group of people from Unity Health Toronto, Region Skåne and Skåne University Hospital at AI Sweden's Gothenburg office

The delegation from Unity Health Toronto met with representatives from several Swedish hospitals and regions. Pictured here with representatives from Region Skåne and Skåne University Hospital at AI Sweden’s Gothenburg office.

The delegation met with AstraZeneca and gave a presentation followed by discussions at GoCo Health Innovation City in Gothenburg.

The delegation met with AstraZeneca and gave a presentation followed by discussions at GoCo Health Innovation City in Gothenburg.

"Learning from global leaders in AI usage is crucial for bringing valuable knowledge back to Sweden. Unity Health has shared its expertise through spring webinars, and their visit deepened those discussions, enabling them to bring Swedish insights back to Canada," says Lorna Bartram, Transformation Strategist - Healthcare at AI Sweden.

Several potential collaboration areas were identified throughout the week, including AI applications in production and resource optimization. These areas align with Sweden's challenges of tight regional budgets and staffing shortages.

A meetingroom with yellow walls and beige curtains, a group of people around a conference table listening to a man presenting

Markus Lingman, strategist at Region Halland, discussed potential collaborations with the delegation and a team from Region Halland & Halmstad University. To the right: Annemieke Ålenius, Senior Advisor to the Director-General at the Swedish eHealth Agency, who also participated in the meetings.

A group of people in a meeting room with yellow walls and wooden table, viewing a presentation on a big screen

Magnus Kjellberg, Head of the AI Competence Center at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, along with colleagues from the Västra Götaland Region, also met with Unity Health Toronto to discuss ongoing AI projects and areas of collaboration.

"There are some projects we should start with that are very tangible, practical, and applied to make a difference. For example, on the administrative level, how do we make our flow more efficient and minimize ‘no shows’? Many patients are scheduled but don't show up. There are gaps in the schedule. How do we fill those gaps efficiently so our clinicians can provide services more effectively and patients can get care faster?" says Mamdani.

A key lesson was the importance of addressing quick-win projects with precise, immediate needs and visible operational impacts. These projects can serve as proof of concept and build momentum for more ambitious initiatives.

"It's important to focus on projects we can do fairly quickly. Down the road, as we learn and mature, we can focus on larger projects that will more significantly impact the care we deliver to patients," says Mamdani.

Focus on Value-Adding Applications

Juulia Suvilehto, Data Scientist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, is one of the Swedish healthcare representatives who participated in all webinars:

"Learning from Unity Health's experience developing and deploying practical data science solutions has been inspiring. It has prompted us to rethink how we organize our internal work, prioritize projects, and ensure our initiatives reach deployment rather than stopping at the proof-of-concept stage," she says.

Key Takeaways from Unity Health Toronto

  • Build a straightforward process for evaluating use-case ideas, focusing on actual value creation.
  • Prioritize ideas that have the potential to create value by working closely with end users and maintaining a business perspective.
  • Focus on deploying new solutions from the start – there's a big difference between developing a prototype and having something operational 24/7.
  • Build not only a development and innovation organization but also one for production and operations.

"It's challenging to pinpoint one most important lesson," she notes. "Every session had several 'aha' moments. But if I had to choose one, it would be their practice of only starting a project after evaluating how the solution will provide value. This approach has inspired us at Sahlgrenska University Hospital to be more explicit about the expected benefits of a project from the very early stages," says Juulia Suvilehto.

Johan Åhlén, Chief Architect & Chief Data Officer at Region Skåne, echoes this sentiment:

"We have gained tremendous value by learning about their organizational structure, processes, resources, and competencies. The most important lesson for me is building strong internal and external collaborations, such as with academic centers and industry," he says.

Facts: AI Sweden and Unity Health Toronto

In December 2023, AI Sweden and Unity Health signed a letter of intent to collaborate on integrating AI in health care. The partnership will focus on identifying valuable applications and implementing AI in health care settings. The collaboration started in 2024, with plans to scale up in 2025.

Unity Health, comprised of St. Joseph’s Health Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital, and Providence Healthcare, serves patients, residents, and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. It has built and launched over 50 AI models and other analytical tools to support healthcare and administrative staff. These tools range from monitoring hospitalized patients to simplifying scheduling. Consequently, the quality of care has improved with tangible reductions in mortality and readmissions, and the work environment for staff has become more balanced. For instance, a patient monitoring model allows for better distribution of responsibilities among staff, resulting in a more even workload across the care team.

"We are very grateful for how generously Unity Health has shared practical examples of operationalizing AI development and implementation. There has been great engagement from Swedish hospitals and regions, and we now look forward to the next phase of identifying concrete collaborations," says Nina Lahti, Transformation Strategist - Healthcare at AI Sweden.

Three presentations

Presentations from three of the seminars are now available; click links to watch on Youtube.

AI & Healthcare in the AI Sweden Podcast

We've gathered our episodes related to AI in healthcare for you to enjoy. Among other things, you will learn more about our knowledge exchange with Unity Health Toronto, how to work with AI in a systematic way, and what it's like going from pilot to production.

A grid showing 4 different AI Sweden podcast cover images

For more information, contact

Nina Lahti
Nina Lahti
AI Transformation Strategist - Healthcare
+46 (0)70-085 69 76
Lorna Bartram
Lorna Bartram
AI Transformation Strategist - Healthcare
+46 (0)70-635 71 01

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