Northwestern Memorial Hospital is the first hospital in the United States to purchase Caption Health’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology for ultrasound, Caption AI. The FDA cleared, AI-guided ultrasound system enables healthcare providers to acquire and interpret quality ultrasound images of the heart, increasing access to timely and accurate cardiac assessments at the point of care.
Performing an ultrasound exam is a complex skill that takes years to master. Caption AI enables clinicians — including those without prior ultrasound experience — to quickly and accurately perform diagnostic-quality ultrasound exams by providing expert turn-by-turn guidance, automated quality assessment and intelligent interpretation capabilities. The systems are currently in the hospital’s emergency department, medical intensive care unit, cardio-oncology clinic and in use by the hospital medicine group.
“Through our partnership with Caption Health, we are looking to democratize the echocardiogram, a stalwart tool in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease,” said Patrick McCarthy, M.D., chief of cardiac surgery and executive director of the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, a group involved in the early development of the technology. “Our ultimate goal is to improve cardiovascular health wherever we need to, and Caption AI is increasing access throughout the hospital to quality diagnostic images.”
Caption AI emulates the expertise of a sonographer by providing real-time guidance on how to position and manipulate the transducer, or ultrasound wand, on a patient’s body. The software shows clinicians in real time how close they are to acquiring a quality ultrasound image, and automatically records the image when it reaches the diagnostic-quality threshold. Caption AI also automatically calculates ejection fraction, or the percentage of blood leaving the heart when it contracts, which is the most widely used measurement to assess cardiac function.
“Northwestern Medicine has been a tremendous partner in helping us develop and validate Caption AI. We are thrilled that they are bringing Caption AI into key clinical settings as our first customer,” said Charles Cadieu, chief executive officer and co-founder of Caption Health. “The clinical, economic and operational advantages of using AI-guided ultrasound are clear. Most important, this solution increases access to a safe and effective diagnostic tool that can be life-saving for patients.”
Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has a number of benefits. Increased usage of POCUS contributes to more timely and accurate diagnoses, more accurate monitoring and has been shown to lead to changes in patient management in 47% of cases for critically ill patients. POCUS also allows patients to avoid additional visits to receive imaging, as well as providing real-time results that can be recorded into a patient’s electronic medical record.
“I think the most exciting part is that Caption AI allows our intensive care unit (ICU) providers to do a point-of-care, real-time ultrasound for a sick patient,” said James “Mac” Walter, M.D., associate program director for the pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship at Northwestern Medicine, who first used the technology on COVID-19 patients in Northwestern Memorial’s ICU. “It’s a way to integrate two worlds — real-time point-of-care ultrasounds and urgent care in the ICU — with details that are ready for cardiologists when they need them.”
The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute committed to investigating the role of AI and machine learning in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in 2018. Its Clinical Trials Unit was one of Caption Health’s first partners, investigating the effectiveness of Caption Guidance in a clinical trial based, in part, out of Northwestern Memorial Hospital that served as the basis for the software’s landmark FDA authorization earlier this year.
In addition to being used to diagnose and treat patients, Caption AI will be used by fellows who typically need months of practice to learn accurate echocardiography techniques in real time.