– What is Aidence and how it works
– How this impacts the future of radiology
– Advice for raising capital in the med-tech world
– The future of AI in medicine
Aidence is developing artificial intelligence algorithms that focus on the analysis of CT chest radiological images. The software is capable of detecting lung cancer, because the company used algorithms to ‘teach’ the program to detect different types of nodules. It is a supportive tool for radiologists.
The algorithm reads thousands and thousands of images. Currently, 45 000 images with lung nodules have been annotated and categorised. These images have been inputted into the AI algorithm so that it starts to learn the features of a nodule/cancer. It can recognise all the different variations based on characteristics such as shape, intensity of pixels, volume etc.
Before the radiologist receives the images, it has already been sent to Aidence. If Aidence detected a nodule, it will circle the nodule, annotate it, and provide a report describing the characteristic e.g. type of nodule, size, volume and specific location.
Currently, it supports the radiologist, in a screening situation or also normal clinical practice. In the future, for potential specific situations such as assessing a single disorder, the system could replace a radiologist but in most situations the radiologists have the broader medical experience and knowledge which is required.
It’s very difficult therefore to train an algorithm to detect a rare disease because there are simply not enough examples to feed into it.
Artificial intelligence is currently developed by the use of numerous examples which are required for it to effectively diagnose a condition. An algorithm can currently only do a few specific things, depending on how much data has been inputted for analysis. That is the limitation of AI and why they won’t replace radiologists in the short term.
Aidence recently raised €2.25 million in investment, but Jeroen says that raising this sum of money for a pre-market, pre-product, revenue business in Europe is difficult. Some of their competitors in the US and Israel have raised $7.5 – 25 million. They plan to use the money to extend their team and product, apply for CE certification and for distribution to first medical specialists.
Their advice for anyone trying to raise money for medical technology is to get as much proof on the tech as possible, before trying to raise money. All investors want to know whether you can prove there is commercial viability. AI or IT in health care is so innovative and new that the business models are evolving.
Aidence started co-developing with the market, and it was this approach that convinced investors because in collaborating with the market, there is proof of a clear pathway to commercialisation.
Currently, Aidence is being used in several institutions in Holland, and with one radiology company in the US, all of which are in pilot phases. They’re also discussing with several NHS trusts in the UK to start pilots as well. At this point, it’s hard to say how much they will charge for the technology but for one particular disease, the price could range anywhere between €1 to €10 per image analysis. The more disorders they can add to the algorithm, the higher the price will become because the value would significantly increase.
In the short term, AI will provide marginal input and medical specialists will still be needed because it cannot provide broad and accurate diagnostics.
For the longer term, say 15 – 25 years, that’s when AI will begin to take over the role of diagnostics, which could be in the fields of radiology, microbiology, and in decision making for treatments.
There are numerous potential changes in digital health but medical institutions are reluctant to support them. Jeroen recommends interacting with companies, large and small, who are developing these new technologies. All the companies are looking for pilot sites and people to provide clinical input and testing. Several young radiologists have approached Aidence as they are aware of changes coming to the industry and see it as an opportunity to be pioneering. He advises other healthcare professionals to consider the same.
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