On 7 February 2020, Caption Health gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the sale of its Caption Guidance software. This innovative software uses artificial intelligence (AI) to guide practitioners through a cardiac ultrasound exam, called an echocardiogram, making cardiac imaging more accessible. Caption Guidance joins several other vendors that have applied AI technology to cardiovascular ultrasound in recent years.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death, especially in developed nations like the United States, where it is the cause of nearly one-in-four deaths and its incidence is rising (Source: American Heart Association (AHA)). Echocardiograms are crucial examinations for the diagnosis of heart disease and other heart conditions. Omdia estimates that over 40 million echocardiograms were performed in the United States in 2018, making it the most common ultrasound procedure. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of echocardiograms is dependent and often limited by the end-user’s technique during real-time acquisition and interpretation of images. Caption Guidance helps optimize image acquisition by instructing the end-user on how to manipulate the transducer during the examination.
A major challenge in the fight against heart disease is the lack of technicians trained in echocardiography in developed nations. There is an acute shortage of practitioners trained to use ultrasound, and specifically in echocardiography; this situation is even more severe in developing nations. This increases the importance of software companies like Caption Guidance because it helps bridge the gap in training, by enabling a less experienced practitioner to acquire an adequate echocardiogram. Clearly, technology has outpaced education in the field of cardiac ultrasound and as a result, more and more medical schools are introducing ultrasound training as part of their curriculum. These teaching efforts are almost exclusively in the United States and other advanced healthcare markets and have a long way to go to address the shortage of trained ultrasound users.
In addition to Caption Guidance, the development of advanced ultrasound technology is simplifying procedures and making cardiac ultrasound accessible to more end-users. Empowering clinicians to use cardiac ultrasound can greatly expand the general public’s access to cardiac diagnostic imaging even in unique settings. For example:
DiA Imaging Analysis’ LVivo Toolbox is equipped with diagnostic AI algorithms for cardiac ultrasound and alleviates some of the pressure from the technician by implementing algorithms to assist in diagnostics in real-time.
Butterfly Network’s chip-based handheld ultrasound system, Butterfly iQ, is small, easy-to-use, and relatively inexpensive, allowing end-users to perform ultrasound nearly anywhere, especially in point-of-care (POC) environments, such as in ambulances or in crowded emergency departments.
Like Butterfly network, AI companies Caption Health and DiA Imaging Analysis initially targeted POC settings by partnering with vendors to feature their technology on POC ultrasound systems. Caption Health has partnered with Terason to include Caption Guidance on their POC ultrasound systems, and DiA’s LVivo Toolbox is prominently featured on GE’s Vscan. The innovations listed above greatly improve efficiency and ease-of-use, which are crucial for triage and diagnosis of heart conditions in fast-paced POC environments, where end-users have less advanced ultrasound training than in a cardiology department. Omdia forecasts that the United States POC ultrasound equipment unit shipments will show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023 of 4.3%, faster than the remainder of the United States ultrasound market.
The rising incidence of cardiac disease, increased ultrasound training in POC applications, AI and vendor collaborations, and advanced technology that improves the accessibility of important ultrasound examinations such as echocardiograms, will play important roles in the growth of the POC ultrasound market. Innovations such as Caption Guidance illustrate the bright future of ultrasound and its ability to overcome challenges and combat chronic disease.
Omdia’s Healthcare technology will continue to assess the implementation of artificial intelligence in ultrasound, in addition to the development of point of care ultrasound applications within its Ultrasound Intelligence Service.