A $25 million gift to Northwestern Medicine in Chicago will enable the organization to launch the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute dedicated to using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to better treat cardiovascular disease.

The gift comes from the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation that was formed by Neil G. Bluhm, a Chicago philanthropist and real estate developer, who has supported the cardiovascular program since 2005. “My support of Northwestern’s cardiovascular program has always been about sparking transformation and creating one of the top programs in cardiac care in the nation,” Bluhm says.

Northwestern is working with four companies to apply artificial intelligence to clinical cardiovascular care, says Patrick McCarthy, MD, executive director of the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

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An early vendor partner in the program is San Francisco-based Bay Labs, which is creating AI-based products to help clinicians process and analyze cardiac ultrasound images, also known as echocardiography, which aids in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease.

The goal at Bay Labs is to make echocardiography more accessible to physicians wherever patients are seen and increase the ability to deliver quality care at scale.

Another unnamed partner is bringing a device to download EKG results to the laboratory and physician electronic health record systems. Other companies coming in are bringing robotic and big data technologies.

Northwestern Medicine is further taking advantage of the resources in the Chicago region that include the large enterprise of Northwestern Medicine, a wealth of engineering and computer sciences teams and a lot of hospitals and patients to participate in the project. In particular, McCarthy wants to recruit a community hospital to participate as a testing lab for bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning into smaller hospitals.

“By harnessing Northwestern Medicine’s integrated academic health system we can study the use of AI and machine learning in a community setting,” McCarthy adds. “Using AI and machine learning is no longer five to ten years away; we’re looking at Bay Labs pilot testing in a few weeks.”

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