Google prize money to help Sydney University cut heart attack risk using AI

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University of Sydney beat out thousands of competitors to become one of 20 recipients of Google's AI Impact Challenge funding in healthcare.

By U2B Staff 

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The University of Sydney has been awarded US$1 million from Google’s charitable organisation to develop a customised artificial intelligence (AI) digital healthcare programme to prevent heart attacks.

The funding was the first prize in Google’s AI Impact Challenge that saw organisations from around the world submit their ideas for how they could use AI to help address societal challenges.

Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC) was one of 20 recipients of the prize money, which comes with expert support to assist in the development of their AI healthcare programme.

“This support from Google recognises our pioneering work in this space,” said University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence.

“AI has the potential to transform health care globally – from crisis management to prevention – and we are delighted to be working with industry and with government to look at new ways of tackling society’s growing health burden.”

The research team’s project reduces heart attack risk by providing tailored advice and “nudges” using machine learning, to participants who have presented at the hospital with chest pain.

It combines clinical and consumer-derived data, from devices such as mobile phone apps and wearables with AI, to provide earlier identification of “at-risk” individuals and enable better access prioritisation based on the risk of the patient.

In addition to the funding, the research centre will also have access to a mentorship delivered by a Google employee. This is aimed at helping researchers translate their findings into a deliverable, usable programme that can be shared with the public.

Researchers hope this will not only save lives but streamline the emergency healthcare process and reduce costs in A&E departments.

“Chest pain is the second most common reason people present to emergency department in Australia and may be an early warning sign – early identification and monitoring could prevent patients returning to hospital suffering a heart attack but currently this is poorly done,” explained cardiologist at Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney’s Westmead Clinical School as well as academic director of the WARC, Professor Clara Chow.

“AI-driven digital health interventions have the potential to be the game-changer – as the technology would enable patients to be monitored while they go about their daily lives.”