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Cambridge Memorial Hospital becomes first in province to use AI screening technology for assessing low bone mineral density

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Cambridge Memorial Hospital (CMH) is the first Ontario hospital to employ artificial intelligence (AI) screening technology for clinical use when it comes to assessing low bone mineral density (BMD).

Dr. Winnie Lee is the chief of diagnostic imaging at CMH and she says this will help her assess BMD in patients more efficiently and in greater detail than ever before.

“It’s a silent disease – osteoporosis is under recognized. According to Osteoporosis Canada, 20 per cent to 25 per cent of people don’t realize they’re at risk,” said Lee, referencing how much this new technology will help.

The AI program is called Rho, and it was created after diagnostic radiologist Dr. Mark Cicero and his team at 16 Bit noticed shortfalls among industry practices.

“Knowing that osteoporosis screening programs were underutilized and many patients would end up in the emergency department with a fracture who had never been screened before, we realized that something had to be done about this epidemic,” said Cicero.

It appears Rho may be the answer.

“[It] can automatically analyze X-rays done in patients over the age of 50 for any clinical indication to assess their risk of having osteoporosis or low bone density,” said Cicero.

Lee says 16 Bit has introduced a new way of looking at preventative medicine.

“[Now], we as radiologists can support and identify these patients earlier so they can access the care they need before they arrive on our doorsteps with a fracture, with an unknown osteopenia or low bone density,” Lee said.

The technology works in the background of routine X-ray exams. Ultimately, bridging a diagnostic gap by proactively identifying patients that can benefit from a specialized test called DXA, which measures BMD.

That’s something professionals in this field wouldn’t identify themselves before this technology.

“Unless the disease is very pronounced, we won’t comment on [a] typical X-ray for low bone density. That all changes with the advent of Rho,” said Cicero.

As the technology continues to roll out, the hope is that patients will be able to get necessary treatment decades sooner than they would under the existing screening paradigm.

Cambridge Memorial isn’t the only hospital in the province using AI. Click here for other examples.

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