Health Tech World hears from Radiobotics, a Danish start up that is developing AI solutions to analyse musculoskeletal x-ray images, a relatively neglected area in the growing field of radiology AI.
According to the Royal College of Radiologists, the NHS radiologist workforce is 33% understaffed. By 2025, that figure is expected to reach 44%. In other words, the NHS needs 3600 new radiologists to manage the influx of radiology reports.
One option for combating the shortage is to train more radiologists, but the qualification can take upwards of a decade to attain. Talent pools abroad could also be a potential solution, however, the growing gap between supply and demand extends beyond the UK.
A third option is to use technology to tackle the issue. Companies like the Copenhagen-based start-up, Radiobotics are looking to automation to support radiologists and save them valuable time while reporting. The company focuses on x-rays, having developed a number of solutions that can automate the analysis of medical images.
Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision, Radiobotics’ medical devices can ‘look’ at the images, detect major findings, analyse them and produce a text report and conclusion along with a visual overlay to support the radiologist’s decision.
AI in radiology is a popular area of focus in the healthcare sector, but the majority of products on the market concentrate on life-threatening conditions such as cancer and stroke detection. Radiobotics says it has carved a niche for itself in the industry by focusing on musculoskeletal scans, a relatively neglected area in the field of Radiology AI.
“A big portion of the companies working in radiology AI have focused on breast screening, cancer detection and stroke detection,” Cathal White, Business Development Manager at Radiobotics says. “There’s a huge need for that, but I think that we’re on the cusp of a second wave of innovation and looking towards how AI can be deployed in different ways.”
Radiobotics has developed several products since launching in 2017; including the CE marked RBKnee and RBHip. The latter aims to identify when a patient is starting to deteriorate so they can be offered preventative treatment. The device scans for hip dysplasia, a condition that precedes osteoarthritis and often goes undiagnosed.
“If you can offer those diagnoses and find those patients who have hip dysplasia, you can start preventative treatment to keep the patient well and stop them developing osteoarthritis and going through surgery,” White continues.
Radiobotics aims to make x-ray reporting more efficient and more consistent. Traditionally, patients can be sent unnecessarily to various different specialists before starting their treatment. This can sometimes stem from inconsistent reporting. Radiobotics aims to get triaging right the first time by improving the consistency of radiology reports.
“I’m really excited about how we can move from solving an issue in the radiology department to taking it to the next level and looking at clinical pathways and how we can put technology and AI at the heart of those pathways to make them more efficient and enable better triage,” White says.
“The AI is always on; it doesn’t have a good or a bad day. It performs the same way at two in the morning versus three in the afternoon and I think that’s really useful.
“The healthcare system is under a lot of pressure and I think having a tool that you can rely on that’s giving consistent outputs is really valuable.”
Launched three and a half years ago, Radiobotics is growing fast. The company consists of twenty employees and has its technology in prospective installations in hospitals in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US. Recently the company’s technology received a medical device regulation (MDR) certification as a class 2A device; the highest standard that can be attained in Europe.
In the UK, the company recently joined the General Electric EMEA Edison Accelerator. Through the programme, Radiobotics is working with the East Midlands Radiology Consortium to deploy its technology. Last year, Radiobotics opened a branch in the US as part of its plans to expand into the North American market.
“We’re really excited to get our products out there and get more clinical use across both the NHS and across Europe,” White says. “We’re also looking to launch our products in the US; that’s the most exciting thing that’s happening for us right now.
“We’re gearing up towards FDA approval for our products and then we’ll be looking at how we can market and get the products out across the US and try to replicate the success we’ve had in Europe.”
Radiobotics previously raised $5.2 million USD in funding and is now raising a growth round of $6-10M to drive its R&D, commercial efforts and international presence. Over the coming years, Radiobotics aims to develop products that can solve 70% of cases in musculoskeletal x-ray.
White adds: “We’re really passionate about giving radiologists and the reporting radiographers the tools to enable them to meet the healthcare challenges of today and into the future as well.”