Sydney Uni wins $1M for AI-driven heart health program

Google has awarded $1 million to Sydney University’s Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC) for a translational health program that will use digital tools to prevent heart attacks.

As the winner of Australia’s inaugural Google.org AI Impact Challenge, the university receives the money and expert support to develop a customised digital health program powered by artificial intelligence technologies.

Initially centered around western Sydney health services, the program reduces heart attack risk by providing tailored advice and nudges using machine learning to participants who have presented at hospital with chest pain.

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

Digital health interventions and therapeutics such as text messages and smartphones apps have been the cornerstone of innovative research at WARC.

Sydney University’s vice-chancellor and principal Dr Michael Spence said the award recognises the university’s pioneering work in this space.

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

Westmead Hospital cardiologist professor Clara Chow, said that a focus on a scalable prevention program should make a difference to individuals’ lives and help address issues of increasing preventable chronic illness suffered by an aging population.

“Modifiable risk factors account for over 90 per cent of the risk of heart attack worldwide. Chest pain is the second most common reason people present to the 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. 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.”

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