By all accounts, acquiring a diagnostic quality ultrasound image of the heart is challenging, even for an experienced ultrasound user. That’s why Dr. Bertrand Moal and his brother Olivier Moal decided to build technologies to support healthcare professionals in performing a cardiac exam.
The Moal brothers founded DESKi, a medical technology company that has developed HeartFocus, an App that uses AI-driven guidance to provide visual cues on how to correctly move the ultrasound scanner on the patient’s chest to obtain diagnostic quality images.
In a sense, we have gamified the cardiac exam with our app: the probe becomes a joystick, and the operator is guided to move the probe correctly to acquire a good image,” Dr. Moal explains. “The App automatically detects image quality and when the operator is successful, it triggers automatic recordings that can be used by experts for interpretation and diagnosis.”
Clarius Ultrasound is one of the best solutions on the market right now for cardiac ultrasound exams and being able to have an easy connection to integrate our HeartFocus App is huge for us,” says Dr. Moal. “It’s usually technically difficult to integrate software with a third party, but Clarius makes our life a lot easier with their SDK API.”
In preparation for the Clarius Marketplace launch, we had an opportunity to interview Dr. Bertrand Moal about DESKi and their partnership with Clarius. Read on to learn more.
Why did you decide to focus on AI to expand the use of ultrasound?
My brother and I came to understand that AI applied to medical imaging could have a huge impact for patients. We loved the idea that with our technology we can spread medical expertise to any healthcare professional, improving access to patient care. ”
What led you to focus on cardiac exams as the first application for DESKi AI?
There are two main reasons. First, because there is a major problem in terms of public health regarding cardiovascular disease. Studies predict that by 2035, 45% of the American population will suffer from a form of cardiovascular disease. The number of cardiologists is not increasing at the same pace as the number of patients with those diseases. And so, we believe that democratizing the cardiac ultrasound exam will be a priority to address this growing demand.
Also, cardiovascular exams are difficult, especially because there is a large variability in terms of anatomy between patients, and it requires complex hand-eye coordination. We believe that with HeartFocus, we can help any healthcare professional to acquire the best diagnostic quality image.
Normally, when you are learning to perform an ultrasound cardiac exam, it’s very difficult to link what you see on the screen and the movement you have to perform with the probe. Most of the time, when training in cardiac ultrasound, you may have 10 to 20 students, one cardiologist and maybe one model. And so, your time performing cardiac ultrasound with a cardiologist at your side to explain which movement you need to perform to obtain those views is extremely short. With HeartFocus, it’s almost like having a cardiologist at your side every time, anywhere with any patient, without having the real cardiologist next to you, which could be a bit stressful.”
Who will be the primary users of HeartFocus?
I think initially everyone who wants to learn how to perform a cardiac ultrasound exam can use our solution. By everyone I mean medical students, residents in cardiology, general practitioners, emergency physicians, intensivists, geriatricians, and sonographers who are learning. So, any operator without experience performing cardiac ultrasound exams.”
What are the key benefits of using HeartFocus?
HeartFocus expands access to cardiac care through the education of any beginner, supporting ultrasound adoption by medical doctors and creating new clinical pathways that are more efficient and accessible.
For education, HeartFocus is a simpler and more accessible tool to support training programs.
For a medical doctor with limited experience but crucial needs for cardiac ultrasound, HeartFocus accelerates acquisition and ensures the exam quality and the accuracy of the evaluation.
Finally, the acquisition could be expanded from medical doctors to any healthcare professional without experience in ultrasound. HeartFocus will allow tele–echocardiography where cardiac exams will be performed at home by nurses and interpreted remotely by cardiologists. HeartFocus will simplify access to care for the patient, avoid preventable hospitalizations, save time for cardiologists, and improve the cost-effectiveness of the exam for care providers and insurers. In addition, tele-echocardiography will open the way to large-scale screenings of cardiovascular disease.”
How is Clarius helping to speed up your time to market?
First, Clarius provides a high-quality handheld cardiac ultrasound probe that can be used anywhere. The quality of the image is terrific. Second, Clarius has created this marketplace and an open software platform that allows us to quickly integrate our HeartFocus App. And third, Clarius has a lot of customers and it’s a great opportunity for us to get some feedback on our application.”
Is HeartFocus available now?
We expect to have HeartFocus Education available for Clarius customers by the beginning of next year. We are also starting clinical trials to evaluate HeartFocus for clinical use. Our goal is to provide automatic evaluation of cardiac pathology using AI.”
DESKi’s HeartFocus app empowers any healthcare professional to accurately perform a cardiac ultrasound exam. Its Intuitive AI-driven guidance provides visual cues on how to correctly move the ultrasound scanner on the patient’s chest to obtain diagnostic quality images. HeartFocus automatically detects image quality and triggers automatic recordings that can be used by experts for interpretation and diagnosis.
Although ultrasound systems are easier to use and more affordable than ever, their potential is limited by the number of experts able to use them. That is particularly true for cardiac ultrasound imaging because acquisition is complex, operator dependent, and interpretation is a rare skill,” says Dr. Bertrand Moal, Chief Executive Officer at DESKi. “That’s why we developed HeartFocus, an AI-driven App that integrates with Clarius handheld ultrasound and provides real-time guidance that can be used by any clinician. The Clarius Phased Array scanner delivers superior cardiac imaging and using it with HeartFocus is like having a cardiologist guiding you during the exam.”
DESKi will first release a version of HeartFocus dedicated to the training of any healthcare professional. A clinical version, enabling any healthcare professional to perform a cardiac ultrasound exam will follow.
About the Clarius Marketplace
The Clarius Marketplace is a new platform that enables ultrasound innovators to bring their AI-powered software solutions to market faster by integrating with the Clarius ecosystem, which includes 10 wireless ultrasound scanners and the advanced software infrastructure that is accessible to Clarius members. Through Clarius Marketplace, clinicians who purchased a Clarius device with Membership will have access to more ultrasound software as a service innovation designed to improve workflows, streamline training, help with faster diagnoses, and automate reporting.
About the Clarius Ultrasound Ecosystem
Clarius handheld wireless ultrasound scanners connect to iOS and Android devices, delivering high-resolution ultrasound images traditionally only available with bulkier, high-end systems at a fraction of the cost.
Clarius recently announced a new version of the software development kit, called the Clarius SDK, which enables third-party developers to seamlessly integrate AI-powered ultrasound software with Clarius handheld ultrasound systems, the Clarius App, and Clarius Cloud. The Clarius SDK provides developers with a set of tools to quickly take their solution from code directly to the clinician’s hand without creating custom hardware.