Intelligent Network for Point-of-Care Ultrasound
Using technology to deliver equal access to life-saving ultrasound imaging.
Updated March 31, 2023.
Ultrasound is a key clinical tool in the healthcare system. It helps provide an early diagnosis for many medical conditions, from urgent heart conditions to the progress of a pregnancy.
Unfortunately, access to the life-saving diagnoses made possible with ultrasound is limited by the availability of machines and the ability to analyze their results. In British Columbia, for example, only 5 per cent of physicians are trained to interpret scans. As a result, up to 40 per cent of patients are unable to access specialized diagnostic tests or face long wait times.
This is driving the efforts of the Intelligent Network for Point-of-Care Ultrasound consortium, led by Providence Health Care in partnership with Change Healthcare, Clarius Mobile Health, the University of British Columbia and the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.
How We Are Solving It
The team is developing a bedside tool for doctors that combines machine learning, handheld ultrasound devices and a cloud-based platform to create an integrated and intelligent point-of-care ultrasound network. This project delivers faster, more accurate diagnoses to patients in rural, remote and urban areas.
The intelligent network provides visual feedback to family doctors and reduces the need for specialized training. The visual feedback will provide augmented assistance to the physician to make a diagnosis decision no matter where they are. The connected system will also load images centrally, making remote second opinions an easy option.
The digital solution is also saving money for the healthcare system and patients in smaller communities. It costs about $20,000 to transfer a patient from a rural area to an urban centre for urgent diagnostic imaging. For non-urgent ultrasound scans, especially first trimester obstetric ultrasound exams, patients are out of pocket when they must travel for hours by ferry or car.
The project is initially targeting physicians who treat heart and pregnancy patients in rural communities. The goal is to help Canada be a leader in integrated, point-of-care diagnostics while improving healthcare delivery and outcomes for Canadians.
This project combined portable ultrasound devices, imaging technology, and machine learning to enable physicians to make accurate diagnoses. The project leveraged Clarius Mobile Health’s portable ultrasound technology into a legacy of highly integrated and functional PoCUS social networks accessible to B.C. and Canada’s broader healthcare workforce, so far consisting of 90 devices in remote, rural and Indigenous communities throughout B.C. It has provided critical interventions in the care of rural residents, such as a patient of a midwife on Salt Spring Island, B.C. and resident of Haida Gwaii, B.C.
The solution allowed rural physician users to leverage clinical expertise via telemedicine to lower barriers for safe and effective ultrasound usage and adoption. The project demonstrated the equalizing access to diagnostic testing in rural and remote communities at a minimal cost, as well as the potential to eliminate some avoidable patient transfers, keeping patients close to home while saving significant money to individuals and the healthcare system. It also created a unique data library of point-of-care echocardiography and obstetrics ultrasound. Leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) research will be able to continue to use this library to build AI solutions to provide scalable real-time support for users.
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