Erasmus MC sets up two AI labs to build trustworthy AI programs and improve efficiency of healthcare

We are at an inflection point where governments, researchers, technologists can no longer shy away from talking about the real-world benefits of Artificial Intelligence. While the technology has its own flaws, AI can have a major impact if used for good. 

One of the areas where the impact will be profound is healthcare. From early diagnosis to rapid manufacturing of medicines, AI is all set to upend the industry. Early research suggests AI systems are capable of detecting cancer with radiologist-level accuracy. 

AI is also becoming a true partner for healthcare in the Netherlands. The Dutch government is at the forefront of using AI to improve the lives of people and now, Erasmus MC has announced plans for two AI labs in its facility.

Artificial Intelligence to improve stroke patient’s journey

We are all surrounded by computing devices that are intelligent enough to make some decisions on our behalf. Now, a similar computing infrastructure equipped with AI algorithms will make its way to hospitals helping doctors make informed decisions. In the Netherlands, Philips Healthcare, General Electric Healthcare, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) and Erasmus MC have announced plans to set up two AI labs.

These AI labs will be set up with their own funding and investment from Dutch Research Council (NWO). For one of the two labs, Erasmus MC will collaborate with EUR and partner with Philips Healthcare. This particular lab is meant to improve the patient journey of those suffering from a stroke.

“A stroke is an acute problem but it has a long aftermath. We want to use artificial intelligence to help the patient from A to Z. That starts with calling 911 and ends with rehabilitation,” Erasmus MC professor Wiro Niessen explains in a blog post.

A typical journey of a stroke patient starts with diagnosing them correctly using imaging by a CT scan. Once the imaging is done, the doctors need to offer the patient the best treatment and ultimately the best rehabilitation. Niessen adds that a total of 10 PhD students will work in this new AI lab with Philips over the next ten years to make those choices easier.

The role of these PhD students will be to create an environment in which data collection is possible throughout the patient’s journey. They will then use AI to extract information such as which treatment will suit which kind of patient. The end goal of the AI lab is to create a scenario where they will be able to offer personalised treatment to improve patient outcomes.

The use of AI and patient journey data could help doctors to react to a situation faster than they do right now. It will also make it effective for doctors to make the right call on treatment post diagnosis. While this new lab will start with the patient journey for stroke, the initiative will expand to other patient journeys by joining Convergence, a collaboration between the EUR, TU Delft and Erasmus MC.

AI lab to improve MRI

The second lab is being set up in collaboration with General Electric and neuro-radiologist and Erasmus MC professor Aad van der Lugt will be the driving force. The lab envisions an MRI examination that is better geared to the individual patient. Van der Lugt calls this a faster and more effective scanner.

“An MRI scanner that determines the protocols in advance by providing information about the patient. One that can adjust itself during the scan using information from the first series of scans. Or one that doesn’t have to start over if the patient moves during the scan, but can correct motion artefacts automatically,” Van der Lugt explains.

While the immediate goal of Van der Lugt is to improve MRI, the hope is for AI to eventually help radiologists interpret the scans. Algorithms designed to study MRI scans could find and analyse small details that are not or barely visible to the radiologist. This could be a game changer in saving lives.

ICAI’s ROBUST program: what you need to know

Erasmus MC is setting up the two new AI labs as part of the ROBUST program announced by Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI). As part of its “Trustworthy AI systems for sustainable growth”, ICAI plans to set up a total of 17 labs. The ROBUST Long-Term Program aims to develop AI systems that are trustworthy and attract talent to work on the challenges.

In order to make this possible, NWO is providing €25M while the remaining sum will be invested by participating companies and UMCs. “It’s a huge investment in AI. That’s because the impact of AI in healthcare and society will be enormous, provided we can rely on it properly. We need to make sure that this powerful technology is used responsibly in daily clinical practice. That’s what we’ll be working hard on over the next 10 years,” Niessen said.

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