In a bid to support the improvement of health care in Canada, WatSPEED, the University of Waterloo’s professional and executive education division is launching a cutting-edge program — Leveraging AI to Improve Health Care in Canada.

Starting in May 2024, this program will equip senior leaders and executives with the knowledge and tools necessary to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) for enhancing patient outcomes and organizational success.

Sanjeev Gill Sanjeev Gill, associate vice-president, Innovation and executive director of WatSPEED

“We anticipated the AI tsunami shortly after the release of ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies and quickly began working with our faculty to take a proactive stance with generative AI realizing it would begin to permeate across society,” says Sanjeev Gill, associate vice-president, Innovation and executive director of WatSPEED. “We felt that health care was a sector that could benefit tremendously from AI but were uncertain where leaders stood on the topic."

To develop the program WatSPEED hosted a focus group in Ottawa with some of Canada’s top leaders in health care and health data from both the public and private sector. Those leaders made it clear that AI was top of mind for them and that education for leaders in health care was of critical importance.

Several leaders urged Waterloo to create a program to navigate AI in their roles and more than seven leaders volunteered to help develop the program and committed to enrolling their management teams once ready.

“The interest and involvement of our stakeholders, along with our institution’s commitment to health as part of our Global Futures initiative was all the motivation we needed,” Gill says.

The potential applications of AI in health care are extensive, spanning from enhancing diagnostic accuracy and personalizing treatment plans to expediting disease detection and facilitating remote care. AI can also streamline administrative tasks, allowing health-care professionals to dedicate more time and attention to patient care.

Given the strain on Canada's health care system due to budget constraints, employee burnout, and labour shortages, the integration of AI stands as an opportunity to improve health-care delivery and ultimately enhance the well-being of Canadians.

The program offers a curriculum curated by top AI and public health experts from the University of Waterloo, covering various aspects of AI implementation in health care. Participants will explore topics such as the use of generative AI for patient care and the future implications of these technologies.

The program also covers the ethical considerations of AI adoption.

“The implication of biases in algorithms or the misuse of AI in diagnosis or treatment recommendations that favour one party over another can have massive impacts on individuals and populations. We’ve embedded an entire learning module dedicated to ethics and laws,” Gill explains.

John Hirdes John Hirdes, professor, Faculty of Health

Dr. John Hirdes, program director and a professor in the School of Public Health Sciences, is an expert in health care and service delivery, information management and quantitative research methods who led the development of the program’s curriculum.

“The rapid introduction of AI-based technologies will touch every aspect of Canadian and international health care systems. AI will change direct patient care, health system management, policy development and research,” Hirdes says. “The impact of these changes will be rapid, complex and profound. This program will help decision-makers recognize and respond to the strategic, operational, technical, ethical and policy issues they will face in the advent of one of the most dramatic transformations in health care to date.”

The program offers a blend of online and in-person sessions to cater to diverse learning needs and preferences.

Participants can engage in four 90-minute online executive sprints, providing flexibility for leaders nationwide to join. Additionally, the program features a one-day in-person session, which is crucial for fostering networking, interactive breakout sessions and collaborative learning among health care leaders. This hybrid model ensures broad accessibility while also facilitating a sense of community and experiential sharing.

The final piece of the program culminates in a full-day, in-person event in Toronto, providing participants with an opportunity to engage with inspiring guest speakers, dynamic panel discussions and interactive sessions.

Registration is now open for the Leveraging AI to Improve Health Care in Canada program, offering leaders the opportunity to acquire vital insights and skills for effectively integrating AI in health-care delivery.