Press Release

AI-powered tool to streamline care in emergency departments receives $1.5M in funding

Unity Health Toronto and Signal 1, a health AI start-up, are partnering on the development and launch of an innovative AI tool that has received $1.5 million in funding from Scale AI, Canada’s AI global innovation cluster. The new tool aims to improve the care experience in hospital emergency departments (EDs). 

“At Unity Health Toronto we are already seeing a tremendous impact and potential for AI to transform healthcare,” says Dr. Muhammad Mamdani, VP of Data Science and Advanced Analytics at Unity Health. “Our collaboration with Signal 1 is helping to accelerate the development of AI tools that improve hospital efficiency and care outcomes – enhancing the hospital experience for providers and patients alike.”

As healthcare systems in Canada and abroad aim to recover from the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, EDs are experiencing significant pressures. Due to gaps in care during the pandemic and difficulties accessing primary care, patients are coming to EDs sicker. Staff turnover in hospitals – and EDs in particular – has been unprecedented. Further, capacity issues on inpatient units are increasing the length of time that ED patients are waiting for a bed when they do require hospital care. 

These issues are culminating in longer wait times for patients and overcrowding in EDs, creating a more stressful situation for both patients and staff.

The new AI-powered system identifies patients who are ready for a discharge or admission decision by a physician. The tool will help ED teams more efficiently allocate resources during each shift so patients get more timely and responsive care. As the home of the nation’s only hospital-based applied AI program as well as two busy EDs, Unity Health is uniquely positioned to support design and launch of this tool in collaboration with Signal 1. 

“EDs are dynamic and complex settings. Our AI platform has been specifically developed for hospital environments such as this and ensures that AI predictions are reliable, robust and conveniently delivered to clinicians. We are excited to be co-developing this solution with our partners at Unity Health and grateful for the support of Scale AI, which will accelerate our ability to bring this product to market,” says Mara Lederman, co-founder and COO of Signal 1, a health AI start-up with an enterprise-grade AI platform that enables hospitals to responsibly deploy and scale AI across their organization.

The system will surface its predictions to ED staff and automatically update as new information becomes available, such as lab results from bloodwork. It also aims to accelerate the safe discharge of patients who are well enough to leave the hospital, reducing overcrowding in the ED. Strong data protections will be in place to preserve security and patient privacy.  

 “EDs are always going to be busy but – with this system in place – we’re hoping it will soften the edges for patients so they have better continuity of care within the ED, get diagnostic tests lined up sooner and – ultimately – get to the next step in their care journey faster,” says Dr. Alun Ackery, an ED physician at St. Michael’s and the Medical Director of Information Technology at Unity Health.