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Transforming kidney care with Artificial Intelligence

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Solving kidney problems with local solutions.

Cases of renal disease are on the rise, with close to 10 per cent of the world’s population suffering from kidney disease, or over 700 million people worldwide. This is a 30 per cent rise since 1990 and disproportionally affects countries in the Middle East, the Subcontinent and China. India and China alone have more than 100 million people with kidney disease each, which poses a major health challenge for these countries as their population ages.

In addition, renal disease management has become a substantial economic burden even in industrialised countries. For example, in the U.S., there are 750 K Medicare members with end-stage renal disease, i.e., 1 per cent of the Medicare population costs US$42 billion per year representing close to 10 per cent of the Medicare budget. Also, the Advancing American Kidney Health initiative launch in 2020 was partly to control the burgeoning costs of managing renal disease.

Dr Siddiq Anwar, a Consultant Physician in Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City and a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Khalifa University, spearheaded the digitisation of renal care in SEHA, which has the biggest end-stage renal disease programme in the UAE. He is keen on using data-driven decision making in healthcare and process optimisation to improve overall healthcare outcomes. One of his research interests is to prevent Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) using AI solutions.

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Dr Siddiq Anwar

He firmly believes there is a pressing need for a paradigm shift in nephrology where “we need to pivot away from dialysis and dedicate our energies on prevention.”

He further adds that Automation, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can bridge the existing gap and help free limited trained human resources in nephrology to focus on preventing renal disease. The technology can also bring high-quality renal care to areas with a limited qualified workforce to help manage patients with renal disease.

Dr Anwar is a member of the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) multiple sub-committees including the Middle East Regional Board. The ISN is a global professional association dedicated to advancing kidney health worldwide through education, grants, research, and advocacy. He is part of some of the global initiatives led by ISN to upskill healthcare providers in regions with insufficient specialists to look after the tsunami of renal disease straining their healthcare facilities. Moreover, ISN’s primary focus is to reduce preventable AKI deaths, an effort that requires a lot of trained human resources.

To this end, he is collaborating with Dr Mohammad Yaqub, Assistant Professor at the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), Dr Mecit Can Emre Simsekler, Assistant Professor in Khalifa University and his research student Himanshu Upadhyay. They have developed a platform called RenAIssance that uses ML and AI to help detect, diagnose, and aid the management of AKI.

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Dr Mohammad Yaqub

RenAIssance was selected by Ericsson and the UAE Ministry of Economy at a recent hackathon to help develop solutions that can tackle global problems using the latest technology.

The team aims to disrupt the current model of care, which is very expensive and requires a lot of specialist human and material resources. The project will integrate medical IoT devices and 5G technology innovations with its cloud-based, medical IP-rich AI platform to diagnose and manage AKI. As a result, RenAIssance has the potential to improve patient healthcare outcomes by bringing augmented intelligence to aid medical decision making.

Dr Yaqub adds: “RenAIssance’s mission is to help improve and simplify renal care by harnessing state-of-the-art AI algorithms and best clinical practices”.

Dr Yaqub has extensive AI research and development experience in various healthcare applications, including foetal ultrasound image analysis, echocardiography, and brain MRI assessment. In addition, he brings more than six years of international industry experience in developing AI-driven solutions to medical imaging problems. Some of his projects are licensed to different companies, including GE Healthcare (now in Voluson Swift machine). He is currently the head of the BioMedIA group at MBZUAI and a visiting fellow at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford. On top of solving various challenging healthcare problems using AI, his vision is to make healthcare affordable and easily accessible to all.

Dr Simsekler says: “Leveraging systems thinking principles and AI algorithms, RenAIssance offers a patient-centred solution to improve healthcare outcomes, including patient safety, high-quality renal care and patient experience”.

Dr Simsekler’s research spans healthcare analytics and management to improve operational and safety outcomes and accelerate risk-based decision-making. He explores innovative approaches to help healthcare organisations transform their operations strategy, risk management policy and organisational culture. His research has been published in leading medical and engineering management journals, including high-ranked outputs. Beyond scientific contribution, Dr Simsekler’s vision is to make healthcare safer.

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Dr Mecit Can Emre Simsekler

Currently, Dr Simsekler is an Assistant Professor at the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, UAE’s top-ranked university. He is also part of the Research Center for Digital Supply Chain and Operations Management at the university. Further, he has active visiting affiliations at Boston Children’s Hospital (Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital) and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and honorary researcher affiliation at UCL School of Management.

For research student Himanshu Upadhyay, a Machine Learning Engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi, “RenAIssance is a model for the future. It dwells on the idea of using data analytics and AI for better and affordable healthcare.”

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Himanshu Upadhay

Upadhyay’s work has been primarily focused on leveraging technology to solve business problems. He was involved in the Future of Work research funded by the Research Center for Digital Supply Chain and Operations Management at Khalifa University. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Crossroads Emerging Leaders Programme and has been working simultaneously on multiple healthcare start-ups involving genomic medicine and Electronic Health Records. He is also currently a part of the UAE National Program for Artificial Intelligence in collaboration with Facebook. He also has prior experience working at a US-based banking giant, Citi. His work mainly revolves around the use of futuristic technologies in different business domains. He is a firm believer in the positive impact of these future technologies on our lives.

The RenAIssance team believes academia and industry collaboration is vital to help develop scalable solutions to tackle various healthcare challenges faced by an ageing population and limited trained workforce.

They believe there is an emerging medical R&D cluster in Abu Dhabi and UAE with the establishment of universities such as Khalifa University, MBZUAI and the entrance of Mayo Clinic, a leader in AI for health, into the healthcare scene in Abu Dhabi.

These prudent investments have allowed team members from diverse backgrounds to coalesce around an innovative project in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, the establishment of Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City, one of the UAE’s largest hospitals for serious and complex care and a joint-venture partnership between Mayo Clinic and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), will allow many more such academic projects to foster innovative healthcare solutions not just for UAE residents but other countries in the region as well.

Hackathons such as “Together Apart Hackathon” organised by Ericsson with the support of UAE’s Ministry of Economy helps showcase emerging talent. This demonstrates the country’s leadership vision of transforming the country into a knowledge-based economic powerhouse.

The RenAIssance team is looking forward to showcasing their platform at Expo 2020 Dubai and meeting industry leaders to discuss how they can collaborate to help the millions of people who suffer from kidney disease across the world.

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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