Dutch-devloped AI better at diagnosing strokes than doctors
Dutch researchers have developed artificial intelligence software that can diagnose a stroke within seconds. According to Merel Boers and her colleagues at Nicolab, the StrokeViewer can significantly improve a patient’s chance of survival by getting them the right diagnosis and, therefore, treatment much faster, the Volkskrant reports.
About a fifth of people will have a stroke in their lifetime. In the best-case scenario, that will happen near a specialized center that can immediately start the right treatment to limit the damage. But that is rarely the case in practice. Patients end up in small hospitals in the middle of the night, where the attending doctor must first be woken up to make and assess a CT scan. And often, the patient must then be transferred to a larger hospital for treatment, sometimes with their scan traveling with them to be assessed by the doctors there.
Boers started working on StrokeViewer in 2015 after, as a researcher at the AMC hospital in Amsterdam, she saw too many stroke patients die because treatment started too late. StrokeViewer automatically sends a patient’s CT scan to the cloud, where AI detects a possible stroke. The doctors on duty receive a notification on their phones within seconds and can share the images with colleagues in other hospitals just as fast.
Nicolab’s biggest challenge now is convincing hospitals to invest in the system. In the Netherlands, about 60 hospitals now use the StrokeViewer.
Ritse Mann, a radiologist at Radboudumc, used the system for a while. “All patients with strokes in the Nijmegen region come to us, so it is valuable if neighboring hospitals can sound the alarm quickly and we can monitor immediately. But during the pilot, the practice turned out more unruly: neighboring hospitals did not have the system, so it has fallen into disuse. Its value is that everyone uses it. That is already happening in the Amsterdam region.”
Mann believes the AI is better at detecting a stroke than he is. “I am an interventional radiologist. Neuroradiologists are better at this. But when I’m on duty, I’m the one who assesses the scan or an assistant,” he told the Volksrkant. The StrokeViewer is especially valuable in finding small strokes that are not centrally located. “If we quickly see where the blood clot is in a patient in a neighboring hospital, we can better assess whether that person should come to us or whether they should stay there to get blood thinners as quickly as possible. In that case, a system that allows you to watch along immediately is useful.”
Boers is convinced that new technology, including AI, is indispensable in alleviating the increasing pressure on healthcare. “The aging population is increasing, we are getting more patients, more interventions, and we already have a staff shortage,” Boers said to the Volkskrant. “You can only solve such problems with innovation. This reduces the workload and saves costs for society. But more importantly: by accelerating crucial care, you give someone a chance to survive.”
A network of 54 hospitals in Spain recently also signed up for StrokeView. “In Australia, we now also work in major hospital regions. The distances are much greater there, so it is even more important that they can work digitally and quickly,” Boers told the newspaper.