Hundreds of thousands of people have missed vital ultrasound scans for heart disease, cancer, and other serious health conditions because of concerns about catching COVID-19. With huge patient backlogs in medical imaging and no immediate end in sight to the current threat, there is urgent need for action to be taken to avoid a future healthcare crisis of undiagnosed medical conditions.
Now, a global leading cardiac health-tech company, Ultromics, is urging healthcare providers to respond as quickly and in the easiest way possible, by adopting fully automated AI services to analyze and diagnose patients. This will help tackle long waiting lists, while minimising the risk for both patients and clinicians of catching the virus.
Studies show that 90% of imaging centers in the US have recorded a significant drop in patient scans during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the UK, the British Heart Foundation recently reported on 200,000 heart scans missed during lockdown. This can be explained by a pause in cardiology services for all but the most urgent cases, and patients staying away from hospital through fear of contracting the coronavirus.
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Dr Ross Upton, co-founder and CEO of Ultromics comments: "COVID-19 has had a paralyzing effect on medical imaging. The risk of COVID complications on the body is well documented and it is vitally important that imaging procedures continue, but essential that they happen in the safest possible way".
"One way to return medical imaging to pre-COVID levels, is to rebuild confidence by helping clinicians significantly reduce the amount of time a patient needs to spend in a clinic or hospital. This in turn will allow for a greater number of patients to be seen and diagnosed."
Both the American Society of Echocardiography and British Society of Echocardiography have released COVID-19 guidelines to encourage clinicians to reduce scan times on ultrasound - the most widely used tool for diagnosing cardiac disease - while reducing time spent handling equipment and limiting exposure of staff who are at increased risk of infection.
Ultromics, has developed EchoGo, an AI service that can be integrated into any existing clinical workflow on a pay-per-scan basis. It fully automates the pathway to diagnosis (traditionally done by taking an ultrasound and manually configuring analysis of the scan with software). EchoGo works using AI-as-a-Service (AIaaS) to automate analysis in the Cloud and, once an ultrasound is performed, deliver a near-instant report, eliminating the need to click software or touch computer equipment.