GE HealthCare has secured a more than $44 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted ultrasound assessment tools. These tools aim to provide clinical decision support for obstetric and lung screening ultrasound scans, benefiting healthcare professionals, including those lacking specialized training. The goal is to enhance maternal, fetal, and pediatric care, particularly in low-and-middle income countries (LMIC) and diverse care settings.

“We are proud and excited to have received this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make ultrasound more accessible in low-and-middle income countries. Ultrasound is an essential tool for screening and diagnosis of various medical conditions, including the health of expectant mothers and managing respiratory diseases,” says Roland Rott, president and CEO, ultrasound, GE HealthCare. 

“However, a key limitation is the guidance of lesser-skilled users to effectively apply affordable point-of-care ultrasound in their care environment,” Rott adds. “This grant will help bring Caption Health’s leading AI technology customized to more users, and therefore contribute to increased access to higher-quality medical care.”

Maternal and child mortality is a critical healthcare issue around the world. In 2020, almost 800 women died every day from preventable causes linked to pregnancy and childbirth, with approximately 95% of all maternal deaths occurring in LMIC. In 2019, 2.4 million children around the world died in their first month of life. Ultrasound technologies are used in maternal care to determine fetal health markers and conditions like gestational age, fetal presentation, multiple gestation (more than one fetus), fetal viability, umbilical blood flow, and ectopic pregnancy.

For children younger than five years old, pneumonia is the leading cause of death worldwide. Because symptoms of pneumonia can develop suddenly, early diagnosis is vital to effective treatment and preventing complications. Point of care lung ultrasound can provide physicians with a view of the entire lung, is easily repeatable and can diagnose pneumonia with greater accuracy compared with a bedside chest X-ray.

In 2020, Caption Health received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the development of AI technology for lung ultrasound.

“Caption Health AI applications are designed to guide healthcare professionals, step-by-step, during an ultrasound exam to help them capture and interpret high-quality ultrasound images,” says Karley Yoder, chief digital officer, ultrasound, GE HealthCare, and general manager, Caption Health. “We are thankful for the continued support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which enables us to expand the development of our existing lung ultrasound project and also broaden the reach of this powerful, novel technology to help provide care to mothers and children.”

Currently, Caption Health offers Cardiac Guidance software, which is U.S. FDA-cleared. With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, Caption Health will develop multiple lung ultrasound and obstetric algorithms through clinical validation and regulatory submissions.