Google has awarded the University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre a $1 million prize and expert support to continue the development of its digital health program which uses AI to predict heart attacks.

The digital health project this week won the inaugural AI Impact Challenge, a program run by Google.org, the tech giant’s philanthropic arm.

The Westmead Applied Research Centre was launched last year as a collaboration between the Western Sydney Local Health District and the university. 

The program which won the Google prize uses data and artificial intelligence to improve monitoring and the accuracy of risk assessment in patients experiencing chest pains. It combines clinical and consumer derived data, such as from phones and wearable devices, to create a “digital footprint”. 

That information combined with AI and machine learning helps to predict the likelihood of a heart attack, the leading cause of death globally.

The insights lead to tailored medical advice and “nudges” at risk patients who have presented at hospital with chest pain.

Professor Clara Chow, an academic director of Westmead Applied Research Centre and cardiologist at Westmead hospital said the work an the ability to monitor patients outside of medical care could help mitigate risk factors for patients.

“Modifiable risk factors account for over 90 percent of the risk of heart attack worldwide,” Professor Chow said.

“Chest pain is the second most common reason people present to 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.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence said the funding would help the Westmead precinct in becoming a global centre of excellence for digital health.

“This support from Google recognises our pioneering work in this space,” Spence said.

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

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