Echocardiography is the one of the most common procedures performed by New Zealand’s approximately 100 cardiologists who use it to rapidly assess cardiac structure and function.
Every year around 80,000 echocardiograms are recorded in New Zealand with cardiologists spending around 20 minutes interpreting each one. However, growing demand for cardiac services from aging populations and the increasing complexity of echocardiograms is burdening cardiologists.
Will Hewitt from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute has founded HeartLab in conjunction with cardiologist Dr Patrick Gladding to use artificial intelligence to address this growing issue.
HeartLab uses artificial intelligence to automatically take some of the measurements a cardiologist would, speeding up the highly manual process of interpreting an echocardiogram.
“Artificial Intelligence is best suited to automate slow, repetitive tasks that require accuracy and consistency,” says Will. “By reducing the time they spend on this sort of work, we can increase the time with their patients, overall improving health outcomes.”
Will says that there is growing acceptance among the medical community of the place that artificial intelligence has. “Doctors generally realise that artificial intelligence is here to assist in their practice, not take away from it,” he says.
Will and Patrick have carried out a pilot study of 60 patients at Waitemata DHB. They’re now working on a larger study with more patients, from multiple DHBs. Their pilot study is being presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2019.
“New Zealand is uniquely placed to develop this sort of technology. We have over 20 years of electronic health records ideal for artificial intelligence innovation.”
HeartLab is hoping that through the use of artificial intelligence that both the availability and equity of cardiovascular healthcare will be improved.
By Prue Scott