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An AI for Health strategy will be a gamechanger for Canada

In July, the national AI for Health Task Force released its report, “Building a Learning Health System for Canadians”.  Beyond the  significant contributions of our 17-member Task Force (and particularly co-chairs Tim Evans and David Naylor), the Task Force engaged AI and health research and innovation leaders from across the country and across sectors.  The Task Force  spoke with hundreds of members of the community, including  young researchers and entrepreneurs, provincial and federal civil servants, and leaders from business and finance.  Their message was consistent:

Canada has a tremendous opportunity to leverage our research and innovation strengths in AI and in health, our publicly funded health systems across the country, and our diverse population to deliver world-leading AI-based health innovations that will improve both our health systems and the health of  Canadians.  

While there are many exciting initiatives across the country that are advancing the application of machine learning approaches to health, the Task Force noted that our greatest opportunity lies in developing a strategic and collaborative vision for AI for health in Canada.  The primary recommendations in the Report speak to the need for foundational investments in infrastructure and education, the establishment of new frameworks for innovation and adoption of AI-based products and services within our health systems, and the overarching need for a national strategy to coordinate these new investments and frameworks and bring together our resources and expertise across the country.

Responding to the call
The Task Force recommended that  governments  assemble a group of AI for health leaders  to develop a shared set of priorities that would guide  new investments and develop a national AI for health strategy.  Our community is poised to respond to the call of governments and we can get on with this work right away using existing governance models such as the working group structures of the national AI Advisory Council or the Canadian Health Information Forum.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we are all in this together.  As we look towards the next six months, and consider how we can protect the health of Canadians and help in the recovery of the Canadian economy, implementing a national AI for health strategy is central to those objectives.  To that end, an important first step will be to convene stakeholders from across sectors and jurisdictions to develop solutions for the benefit of  all Canadians. This is an exciting time for the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy as we move forward with this important initiative. 

Dr. Elissa Strome
Executive Director, Pan-Canadian AI Strategy

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