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A revolution in heart health is seemingly imminent as an Israeli startup has invented a machine that diagnoses heart problems at a patient’s bedside within minutes – with a success rate of over 90%.
A small group of technological wizards and heart specialists from Sheba Medical Center developed a platform called AISAP, which stands for Artificial Intelligence and the acronym for “as soon as possible,” whose software is linked though a tablet to a standard, hand-held ultrasound scanner.
Having hundreds of millions of previous cardiac images in its database, AISAP can diagnose eight vital heart functions from only two scan points in a matter of minutes. It also has a safety feature that “knows” when an image is not clear enough to provide a diagnosis and will tell the person to perform the scan again on the spot.
The screening process has been used on about 1,000 patients so far, and half of them resulted in a finding that required medical intervention. In a full 25% of the cases, the 5-15 minute test actually changed the doctors’ plans for the patients, sending scores for life-saving procedures as a result.
“While the accuracy of diagnosing heart failure through a physical examination alone, using a stethoscope, is 35%, the accuracy with AISAP testing is over 95%,” said Prof. Robert Klempner, the director of Sheba’s Heart Rehabilitation Institute. “A systemic disease, which is found in a physical examination at a rate of 30 to 40%, is identified by AISAP with an accuracy of over 90%.”
Klempner co-founded the AISAP company that was incorporated through Sheba’s innovation arm last year to bring their new technology to the world. Some 18 million people worldwide die from cardiovascular disease each year, according to the World Health Organization. Many lives could be saved if a quick and accurate test were readily available when a patient walks into a doctor’s office complaining of symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue or chest pains.
The use of artificial intelligence is the game-changer.
Small ultrasound devices have been around for awhile. Although costing only a few thousand dollars, the drawback is that they can be used only by highly skilled personnel. The AISAP system, however, can be taught within a few dozen hours, it can be used with any brand of scanner, and the operator is assured that only accurate information is being fed to the platform.
The information can then be shared securely with other medical professionals, even on the other side of the world, with a click of a mouse. This could help millions who don’t have access to the standard, and very expensive, echocardiogram (ECG) machines that many localities simply cannot afford.
In hospitals that do have ECGs, which admittedly test for far more indicators, these can then be saved just for those who are question-marked by AISAP, shortening the wait-time for them considerably.
This was the challenge that actually jump-started the company. Adiel Am-Shalom, a computer specialist who spent years in the Israeli 8200 intelligence unit before moving on to cybersecurity in the private sector, had asked senior staff at Sheba what was a prevalent health problem he and a group of like-minded and skilled friends could solve. They were told that there is a terrible backlog in the ECG department, as there were too few technicians and cardiologists available.
“It’s the first tool that’s used, the bread and butter of the entire cardiac diagnostic process,” said Am-Shalom, but in Sheba alone about 1,000 requested tests a month were not being performed, directly endangering patients’ lives.
The success of the initial clinical test was so great that the new technology has already received Health Ministry approval, and physicians in all internal medicine departments in Sheba are being trained on how to use it. AISAP is also applying for FDA approval and is in the final stages of a clinical trial in several states in the U.S. as well as at Padeh Poriyah Hospital in Tiberius.
Published August 27 2023, World Israel News