Health care delivery in Saskatchewan’s northern region is being revolutionized with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence and portable x-ray devices.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Health Services has partnered with Synthesis Health, allowing patients to receive an x-ray and diagnostics quickly without having to travel great distances.

“When a patient comes into the urgent care center and needs an x-ray done, they pull out a little x-ray unit that really looks like the size of a large digital SLR camera. They put it on this little stand there and take an x-ray for the patient immediately,” said Dr. Deepak Kaura, Chief Medical Officer of Synthesis Health.

“It gets processed by our AI algorithm. Within a matter of seconds, the person who’s actually the frontline worker who’s performing the study, typically the nurse practitioner, the nurse, or the physician gets an output of the AI algorithm on the chest x-ray that says is there’s a region of concern here or the concern that we’ve identified on the chest x-ray.”

Kaura explained the current AI algorithm is only limited to examining the lungs and lung linings, but is expected to expand to the entire chest. As the technology improves, the AI algorithm will then be able to detect other parts of the body, including the back, and possible bone fractures.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Health Services have been testing out the new portable x-ray unit. “We actually invited in each of the communities a patient who needed an x-ray. So we’re able to provide that service on site on that day. And after speaking with that patient, that patient was very grateful and very thankful that she didn’t have to leave her community, or leave her family. And it was just a wonderful experience to be able to offer this service,” explained Genevieve St. Denis, the Preventive Health Manager with the First Nation.

A diagnostics report is expected to be completed the day the x-ray is taken. The patient is then provided treatment options, which could include a visit to a large health facility for care.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation is the only First Nation in the province utilizing the portable x-ray technology, which is useful in detecting Tuberculosis, as the First Nation is addressing current active cases.

Dr. Kaura said the cost to fully implement the program is very efficient, compared to travel costs to larger municipalities. The First Nation is hoping to fully implement the program by October.

(Photo provided by Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Health Services)