CHUM: a project with “enormous potential” to relieve emergencies in Quebec

CHUM: a project with «enormous potential

“Emergencies are overcrowded everywhere, this is not a unique phenomenon in Quebec” , says emergency physician Dr. Berger Pelletier.

The Center hospitalier de l’University of Montreal (CHUM) has set in motion an artificial intelligence project which, by their own admission, has “enormous potential” to improve the efficiency of hospitals in the province. This project, set up by the management and clinician teams as well as the CITADEL research team at the CHUM, would make it possible to predict emergency room traffic, which in turn would speed up access to care and relieve congestion in hospitals.

The initiative actually consists of using artificial intelligence algorithms to build medical records more quickly and allow the hospital to react more quickly to the influx of patients depending on the day. For the consultant emergency physician at the CHUM for this project, Dr. Élyse Berger Pelletier, it is reasonable to believe that the technological aspect of this practice will allow patients to be taken care of much more quickly.

“Technologically, yes it is possible. Will we have the human resources and the resources to make it work, that remains to be seen. This is the method of the future and with the alarming situation in hospitals, we can no longer afford not to innovate. We are starting the project with the emergency rooms because they are filling up more than before with a long wait time.”

In interview with Métro, Dr. Berger Pelletier, believes that the demographic curve would have made it necessary to use artificial intelligence one day or another. “The labor shortage has certainly accelerated the use of artificial intelligence in emergencies, but if we look at the aging of the population in Quebec and around the world, it was inevitable to rely on means such as artificial intelligence to improve the quality and efficiency of care.”

No robots to the place of doctors

The emergency physician specifies that the use of artificial intelligence and databases will ensure that human contact between patients and doctors will increase and not decrease, contrary to what some believe.

“In general, 50% to 60% of my tasks as an emergency physician are administrative. These are times when I am not in contact with the patient. Artificial intelligence will therefore reduce the percentage of these tasks and I will be able to spend more time with them and increase my ability to better meet medical needs.

She adds that humans and artificial intelligence each have their limitations and are therefore complementary, each mitigating the shortcomings of the other in given medical situations. “The eye of a nurse remains important. Artificial intelligence can help detect medical cases that humans cannot detect, just as humans have emotional sensitivity that machines do not. Humans must be at the heart of the project.” The ultimate goal is precisely that nurses and doctors have more time with patients.

A collective project

Dr. Berger Pelletier is enthusiastic about the positive spinoffs that this project can have in Quebec hospitals. She points out that several hospitals in Montreal and elsewhere will be testing “in the coming months” using the artificial intelligence developed at the CHUM. This collaboration could lead to better results throughout the health network.

“We are going to carry out tests, in particular at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. We will collaborate with the hospitals that participated in the CODA-19 Project, a program that led hospitals to gather their databases to counter the spread of COVID-19. Since there are already common databases, it will be easier to create algorithms that way. We will also deploy artificial intelligence in departments other than emergencies and create general databases to see what works or not to improve practices.

The project could also be tested in more rural areas to compare the usefulness of such a system in hospitals with lower population density.

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