What an exciting time for point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) and artificial intelligence (AI)! AI is computer-based technology that mimics the complexity, wonder, and power of the human brain in the likes of robots and machines that replicate human voice and understanding. These devices automate repetitive tasks and create efficiencies. Some household devices you’re probably very aware of such as Siri, Alexa, and Face & Finger Recognition, incorporate automation and capture efficiencies in our day-to-day lives. Yet, these types of AI-infused solutions are just the beginning. The evolution of AI is here and, as AI expert Craig Rhinehart shared on a BBB Podcast last November, it is a disruptive technology1. Rhinehart also shared that just as every other industrial revolution in humanity, the technological evolution of AI is here to stay, changing and broadening our expectations of and access to the evolving technology of AI. It’s already happening – even in the world of POCUS.
According to Stuart Kusta’s article on Signify Research, AI and ultrasound was a hot topic at last year’s RSNA conference. Kusta writes that it is well known that ultrasound is an underutilized, accessible, and comparatively inexpensive diagnostic technology. The conference presented the coupling of AI solutions within ultrasound technology, such as “probe placement guidance and organ detection” 2. These types of innovations will leverage both cost and application efficiencies in the very near future. For example, AI-powered ultrasound devices can be used in emergency rooms by “users with basic ultrasound skills,” according to a GE Healthcare article. In critical moments of decision, ER doctors are empowered to see inside a patient and, with AI-aided support within the ultrasound device, diagnose medical issues accurately and timely 3.
Even with these advances, the same coupling of AI and ultrasound also generates new challenges to be addressed; for example, the task remains of bridging the gap between more accessible technology and technical knowledge needed to decipher and translate findings. As ultrasound vendors look to capitalize upon expertise across the industry, to include partnerships between vendors of software, image analysis and OEMs, embedding AI into POCUS devices will also help to meet the complementary needs of increasing numbers of medical practitioners seeking access to the new technology by providing real-time support.
Additionally, ensuring proper technical training necessary to meet the needs of medical practitioners who, with greater access to POCUS devices with built-in AI solutions, will need increased knowledge to access these solutions. Why? Because deeper learning techniques for AI-infused computing engines can provide clinicians with aided diagnostic support when assessing images and interfacing with patients.
AI will take the POC in POCUS to a whole new level by providing immediate and more accurate diagnoses in the hands of various practitioners, emergency technicians or EMTs, doctors, military, and those serving in third world countries. This AI conversation is just beginning.
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(1) Artificial Intelligence Impacts Business Podcast. Better Business Bureau. https://betterbusiness.blubrry.com/2017/11/01/artificial-intelligence-impacts-business/. 2017.
(2) Artificial Intelligence within Ultrasound. https://www.signifyresearch.net/medical-imaging/artificial-intelligence-within-ultrasound/. 2018
(3) Intelligent Machines Are Changing Point of Care – How Artificial Intelligence can help clinicians focus. http://newsroom.gehealthcare.com/intelligent-machines-changing-point-care/. 2018
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