MedTech company GE HealthCare has been awarded a grant of more than $44M by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funding will accelerate the development of AI-assisted ultrasound tools designed to improve healthcare outcomes in low-and-middle-income countries. Specifically, the grant will focus on creating AI-powered applications to aid healthcare professionals in obtaining more accurate ultrasound scans for maternal and fetal health as well as pediatric respiratory conditions.
Caption Health, a medical AI company acquired by GE HealthCare earlier this year, will develop these tools. The AI applications will be compatible across a variety of ultrasound devices, including more affordable handheld options. “Caption Health AI applications are designed to guide healthcare professionals, step-by-step, during an ultrasound exam to help them capture and interpret high-quality ultrasound images,” said Karley Yoder, Chief Digital Officer, Ultrasound, GE HealthCare and General Manager, Caption Health.
Maternal and child mortality remains a significant concern worldwide. In 2020, an alarming 800 women died daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Around 95 percent of these deaths occurred in low-and-middle-income countries. Additionally, in 2019, 2.4 million children globally died within their first month of life. Ultrasound technologies can be invaluable for assessing fetal health markers like gestational age, fetal viability, and umbilical blood flow, thereby playing a critical role in reducing such tragedies.
For children under the age of five, pneumonia is the leading cause of death globally. Early diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment, and lung ultrasound can provide more accurate diagnosis compared to bedside chest X-rays.
“We are proud and excited to have received this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make ultrasound more accessible in low-and-middle income countries. Ultrasound is an essential tool for screening and diagnosis of various medical conditions, including the health of expectant mothers and managing respiratory diseases,” said Roland Rott, President and CEO, Ultrasound, GE HealthCare. “However, a key limitation is the guidance of lesser-skilled users to effectively apply affordable point-of-care ultrasound in their care environment. This grant will help bring Caption Health’s leading AI technology customized to more users, and therefore contribute to increased access to higher-quality medical care.”
Caption Health currently offers FDA-cleared Cardiac Guidance software. The new funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will aid in the development and clinical validation of multiple lung ultrasound and obstetric algorithms, thereby further diversifying its product offerings.