Montreal hospitals developing artificial intelligence system to reduce ER wait times

By The Canadian Press

Artificial intelligence researchers say a Montreal hospital’s plan to reduce emergency room wait times with an AI algorithm is an appropriate use of the technology _ if it’s done carefully.

The Centre hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal is currently testing an artificial intelligence algorithm intended to help administrators plan emergency room staffing levels and accelerate the admission of some patients.

Dr. Elyse Berger Pelletier, an emergency room physician working on the project, says Quebec patients are waiting an average of 18 hours between the time they’re admitted by a doctor and when they’re given a bed on a ward.

Abhishek Gupta, founder of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, says algorithms can be useful to help reduce wait times, but he warns that the hospital will have to be careful to avoid perpetuating biases.

Berger Pelletier says the risk of bias is a major concern for her and that because the system will be used as a management tool _ and not to plan patient care _ there’s less risk of harm.

She says the system, which is being developed by a research team at the hospital, should be operational within a year.

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