One of the many benefits of being a clinician-led fund is that we can understand the day-to-day realities of medicine and the challenges that clinicians face. A hard truth is that medical professionals are not just striving to improve patients' health, but are often battling against time. This is particularly true in the emergency room, where the most common procedure is the radiology exam. A staggering 400 million images are produced every year, worldwide for traumatic injuries and it is the responsibility of radiologists to make sure nothing is missed. This understanding of the pressures faced by radiologists and the technological solutions that are needed has led Crista Galli Ventures to make our first investment in France, into Gleamer.
Radiologists say they are "very concerned" patients may not be cured of serious illnesses when demand for services increases, due to a lack of imaging equipment in the UK. The president of the Royal College of Radiologists has warned the service had been "woefully underfunded". She said cleaning requirements because of coronavirus would reduce capacity. The Department of Health and Social Care in England said it was investing £200m on imaging equipment. "Radiology is one of those services that people use all the time, but don't really often think about, it's not sexy like surgery", said Dr Jeanette Dickson, president of the Royal College of Radiologists.
The regulator of heath care services in England is calling for a limit on how long it takes to report the results of patients' x-rays and scans. The Care Quality Commission's review of radiology practices found that the process could vary from one hour to two working days in hospital A&Es. This could mean delays in results being shared with doctors and patients receiving timely care. The review also said there were not enough radiologists to meet demand. The Care Quality Commission asked a small group of 30 health trusts in England to reveal their own internal benchmarks for radiology reporting - and it found huge variations in the time taken to examine and report on scans and x-rays.
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout their lives. In an effort to help with quicker detection, researchers have trained a deep-learning algorithm to spot breast cancer in screening scans as accurately or better than a radiologist. While still at an early stage, the research could eventually help reduce incorrect results in the US and help alleviate the shortage of radiologists in the UK. As early detection is key to treatment, women over the age of 50 are tested in the US and UK even if they don't show signs of the disease. False negatives, when cancer is present but not spotted, can prove deadly, while false positives can be distressing.
An artificial intelligence program has been developed that is better at spotting breast cancer in mammograms than expert radiologists. The AI outperformed the specialists by detecting cancers that the radiologists missed in the images, while ignoring features they falsely flagged as possible tumours. If the program proves its worth in clinical trials, the software, developed by Google Health, could make breast screening more effective and ease the burden on health services such as the NHS where radiologists are in short supply. "This is a great demonstration of how these technologies can enable and augment the human expert," said Dominic King, the UK lead at Google Health. "The AI system is saying'I think there may be an issue here, do you want to check?'"