Government & Policy
Supercluster to fund ultrasound project
January 22, 2020
VANCOUVER – This month, the Digital Technology Supercluster announced 14 new projects with a total investment of $25 million. Eight of the projects are focused on talent development for the digital economy, and six on technology.
The Supercluster said it is allotting $5 million to the talent development work, and $20 million to the six technology projects.
One of the tech projects to receive funding is the “Intelligent Network for Point-of-Care Ultrasound” collaboration. The project will develop 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 to deliver faster, more accurate diagnoses.
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 progress of a pregnancy.
However, there are still ongoing challenges, with access to the diagnoses made possible with ultrasound being limited by the availability of machines and the ability to analyze their results. In British Columbia, for example, only 5% of physicians are trained to interpret scans; as a result, up to 40% of patients are not able to access specialized diagnostic tests and face long wait times.
The intelligent network being built will provide visual feedback to family doctors and reduce 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 Intelligent Network for Point-of-Care Ultrasound consortium is being led by Providence Health Care; its partners are Change Healthcare, Clarius Mobile Health, the University of British Columbia, and the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.
There will be an internationally recognized referral hospital – St. Paul’s in Vancouver – at the heart of the program using technology to connect with and help improve access to care in remote and rural places.
The Intelligent Network for Point-of-Care Ultrasound will also save costs for both the health system and for individuals on travel. It costs about $20,000 to transfer a patient from a rural setting to an urban centre for urgent diagnostic imaging.
For non-urgent ultrasound scans, especially first-trimester obstetric ultrasound exams, patients themselves are out of pocket when they travel, often for hours, by ferry or by car.
The project will initially target heart and pregnancy applications, and testing will begin where it can have the most impact on the lives of patients – with rural physicians. The Intelligent Network for Point-of-Care Ultrasound will help Canada lead the development of integrated, point-of-care diagnostics while improving healthcare delivery and outcomes for Canadians.