The Silicon Review
Our ScanNav AI technology has the potential to enable ultrasound to be used by all medical professionals: Stuart Gall
Artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality have captured the imagination and attention of doctors over the past couple years as several companies and large research hospitals work to perfect these systems for clinical use. These systems offer a paradigm shift in how clinicians work in an effort to significantly boost workflow efficiency, while at the same time improving care and patient throughput.
MedaPhor Group plc – the intelligent ultrasound software and simulation company – develops advanced hi-fidelity haptic and manikin based training simulators, clinical image analysis software tools, augmented reality based needle guidance software and AI based automated scanning software for all medical practitioners.
MedaPhor was incorporated in 2004 and is headquartered in Cardiff, the United Kingdom.
Stuart Gall, MedaPhor Group plc CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Why was the company set up?
There are approximately 50 million medical professionals in the world, yet it’s estimated that fewer than two percent of these have the ability to use ultrasound, despite it being one of the fastest, cheapest and safest imaging modalities available in medicine.
Ultrasound is a difficult skill to learn and requires a high level of on-going competence and we believe this is why ultrasound is predominantly carried out only by specialist practitioners. Although there is a growing market for cheaper, portable ultrasound machines, we believe that this alone is not sufficient to open up the potential for ultrasound to become a mass-market diagnostic tool that can also be used by unskilled medical practitioners. To achieve this, ultrasound needs to become simpler to use by making ultrasound machines more intelligent, supporting users both in their scanning and with automated decision-making and this will involve integrating image analysis using AI.
MedaPhor’s expansion from ultrasound simulation-based training into the provision of clinical ultrasound support software recognizes that AI technology has the potential to support, guide and speed up ultrasound scanning to make ultrasound accessible to more medical professionals. The technology embraces AI and augmented reality and MedaPhor aims to develop products and services that can take advantage of these technologies to open up new global ultrasound related imaging markets, whilst continuing to grow its hi-fidelity simulation training markets for ultrasound specialists.
Briefly explain your ultrasound simulation division.
Based in Cardiff (UK), Alpharetta (US) and Hong Kong (China), our intelligent ultrasound simulation and training sales grew to $5.5m in 2017, with sales in North America doubling to $2.3m. Sales in China also nearly doubled to over $1m.
During the year, our R&D team focused on developing the first manikin-based simulator specifically developed to meet the educational needs of medical professionals practicing Point of Care Ultrasound (PoCUS) across emergency medicine and critical care. Complete with over 100 real patient ultrasound cases and over 10,000 patient scenario combinations, BodyWorks Eve (an ultra-realistic female patient simulator) replicates learning in a real-life emergency or critical care setting, allowing the tutor to control and change the severity and pathology of the patient in real time.
Briefly explain your AI clinical software division.
In October 2017, MedaPhor acquired an AI company, Intelligent Ultrasound Limited (IUL) for $4m. Founded through the University of Oxford by world-leading academic Alison Noble OBE FREng FRS, IUL develops image analysis software for ultrasound through the development of deep-learning software, based on sophisticated computer algorithms and researched insights into patient, clinician and healthcare provider needs.
The acquisition is enabling MedaPhor to expand its existing ultrasound simulator business into the larger clinical ultrasound related software market, including the development of its ScanNav AI-based image analysis software. ScanNav is believed to be the first CE marked AI system to carry out an automated, real-time ‘peer review’ of obstetric ultrasound images as the patient is scanned.
ScanNav evaluates each scan by comparing it to over 50 individual criteria to verify that the fetal views required upon reaching 20 weeks’ pregnancy are complete and fit for purpose.
The ScanNav software uses deep learning technology to assess the same features that sonographers look for in ultrasound images and has been ‘taught’ using over 350,000 images that were audited by a panel of experienced sonographers. Initial validation studies have shown that ScanNav’s AI system is as good as an expert sonographer in assessing scan images. ScanNav is currently on pilot in a leading London hospital’s busy obstetric department to help better understand how our proposed range of ScanNav products could fit into the workflow of a busy fetal medicine department and support sonographers and doctors in ultrasound scanning.
How important is customer feedback to you?
Customer feedback is vitally important to us and has shaped our product development from the very beginning. A good example is our new BodyWorks Eve simulator, which has had a fantastic reception since its launch in Los Angeles in January this year. We listened to the doctors’ needs and built a system that makes a step change in the way PoCUS can be taught in the hospital environment. Customers are loving it.
The second example is how we are working with sonographers to develop the ScanNav AI software package so that has the potential to revolutionize obstetric ultrasound imaging, by providing real-time guidance and support to the sonographer during scanning. This feedback from the UK, US and China will be key to delivering an AI software package that is tailored to the real needs of working sonographers and doctors in the widely differing medical healthcare markets around the world.
How do you differentiate your products/services from the rest?
We’re in a highly competitive market, but we have always set ourselves the target of being recognized as the gold standard in terms of product performance. We want to be the best at everything we do – our ultrasound training simulators aim to train you to the highest standards and our AI ultrasound guidance software aims to ensure the highest standard of ultrasound scanning, globally. Ultimately, our goal is to provide patients with access to the highest standards of ultrasound scanning in the world.
What is your company’s vision?
The extension of the Group business, from ultrasound simulation training, into AI based clinical software is an exciting development for MedaPhor. Our ScanNav AI technology has the potential to develop new products that could provide sonographers and doctors with ultrasound support, guidance and audit tools, as well as in the long-term opening up new global markets for automated ultrasound scanning for all medical professionals.
Stuart Gall: A Brief Background
Stuart Gall serves as the Chief Executive Officer of MedaPhor Group plc. He has over 25 years of experience in both small company start-ups and public companies, and previously worked at British Airways plc, The Promotions Partnership Limited, Anvil Limited and Toad plc.
Mr Gall was a joint founder and executive director of Fusion IP plc, an AIM listed university IP commercialisation company, before its purchase by IP Group plc in 2014.