First used in the 1950s, ultrasound relies on high-frequency sound waves to provide cross-sectional images of the body. Over the past 60+ years, ultrasound has become an essential technology for rapid diagnosis, especially because it is cheaper and more accurate than many other imaging methods.
After selling artificial intelligence (AI) -based image recognition start-up IQ Engines to Yahoo in 2013, Kilian Koepsell and Charles Cadieu decided to apply the same technology to other areas where it could have a positive impact. They concluded that the right use case was to tackle a bottleneck in medical imaging and ultrasound in particular: the need for highly skilled professionals.
To solve this problem, Koepsell and Cadieu co-founded Caption Health around the premise that it is necessary to apply technology to “emulate the expertise of highly trained medical experts and put this capability in the hands of every care provider.” .
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spotted the work Caption is doing to develop AI ultrasound software – known as Caption AI – for the heart. This led the foundation to award Caption a $ 4.95 million grant in November to develop similar AI technology for pulmonary ultrasound with the goal of improving the rapid and accurate diagnosis of pneumonia, one major killers of young children and a huge threat to health in the developing world.
Spotlight on subtitle AI
Legend AI guides any healthcare professional by performing and interpreting an ultrasound of the heart. Unlike other AI technologies that simply support the evaluation and interpretation of images for diagnostic purposes, Caption has noticed that the challenge is actually having the training to produce a good image. quality first.
Caption AI guides both the user to produce the image, as well as evaluating the image to support diagnosis, says Koepsell, who serves as Caption’s CTO.
AI software was developed for the heart because doctors identified it as the most difficult organ to medically image. In addition, heart disease is very common and one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Koepsell explains, “The more we looked, the more we learned that – especially for the heart – it is very difficult to have good eyesight. It takes a lot of training to understand what is going on and how to tune the probe.
To guide the healthcare professional, Caption has “recreated the entire user interface,” according to Koepsell. He explains, “Rather than just showing a gray 2D ultrasound cone that you then need to interpret, we have onscreen instructions.
The AI software gives feedback and advice on which direction to move the probe to get the best impact. Koepsell adds, “The legendary AI really guides you to the point where they get the image they’re looking for. It automatically saves the image and then guides them to the next image.
In July 2020, Caption AI became the first AI cardiac ultrasound software to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The approved software was then packaged into a marketable device developed by a partner. According to Koepsell, the software and the device are already available in 20 hospitals in the United States.
Democratize access to lung ultrasound
Although preventable and treatable, pneumonia remains the leading cause of death in children under five worldwide. Lung disease tragically killed 1.3 million children in 2011 and was responsible for 18% of child deaths worldwide, according to the Gates Foundation.
In addition to its work of rolling out immunization programs in developing countries to protect children from pneumonia, the Gates Foundation is also focused on improving access to other diagnostic and treatment tools.
In this context, the world health charity took an interest in what Caption was doing to democratize cardiac ultrasound and how this could be extended to the lungs. “The Gates Foundation is focused on areas where $ 1 can have the greatest impact,” says Koepsell. He adds that one of the biggest challenges in tackling global health challenges is sensing and therefore ultrasound has a huge role to play here.
Like the cardiac ultrasound market, the bottleneck in the pulmonary ultrasound field is the lack of trained users with the appropriate level of clinical skills and technological expertise. There is therefore an urgent need for solutions like those of Caption to democratize access to high quality medical images.
Dr Chris Moore, associate professor of emergency medicine at Yale University and chief of emergency ultrasound, Dr Chris Moore wrote in a statement: of deaths among our youngest citizens of the world, as well as for Covid-19 and other lung conditions. ”
The need for high-quality and accessible ultrasounds only became more evident in the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though Caption and the Gates Foundation started discussing this project before Covid-19, Koepsell notes that there has been increased use of bedside ultrasound due to Covid-19 and that a real bottleneck strangulation in the pandemic has been understaffing. Therefore, the pandemic has underscored the importance of democratized lung ultrasound.
The Gates Foundation’s $ 4.95 million grant from Caption lasts for two years and Koepsell is hoping the ultrasound software will be ready for deployment during that time. However, the next bottleneck in the widespread use of Caption software is the cost of the ultrasound devices themselves.
This item falls outside of Caption’s mandate, but Koepsell notes that the company is working with hardware developers and is optimistic that devices that are cheap enough will be available in the next few years.