With a $15.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Philips will design an AI-based application suite to aid maternal care assessment in low and middle-income countries.
The company plans to use the funding to improve the quality and accessibility that women in these countries have to obstetric care, especially those from underserved communities. The aim is to reduce the number of women who die during pregnancy by providing frontline healthcare workers with tools that can detect potential problems early on in pregnancy.
In many countries, such workers are often midwives who lack required training and ultrasound experience to make a confident diagnosis. The project will equip them with Philips’ handheld ultrasound, Lumify, which will be integrated with the application suite. The applications will offer capabilities for acquiring the right images and assist with interpreting those images.
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Identifying any issues early will allow frontline workers to clinically manage and prevent adverse outcomes before and during birth, according to Philips North America chief medical officer and Philips Research Americas head Joseph Frassica. "The focus will be to use AI to automate much of the examination, to allow users with less experience with ultrasound to apply the technology at the bedside with the goal of identifying early ... issues during pregnancy," he told HCB News.
There is no commercially available ultrasound system that can assist nonexpert users in automating image acquisition or image interpretation for obstetrics measurements, which limits fetal ultrasound scans.
Lumify is currently used in community-based mother and child care programs worldwide. Assisting in the project will be the Philips Foundation, which has experience providing quality healthcare access to underserved communities worldwide. It currently has a program in Kenya
to educate midwives on performing ultrasound-based antenatal pregnancy screenings in village clinics, with telehealth support from faraway radiologists.
Currently, around 830 women die every day worldwide from pregnancy. At least one ultrasound scan should be performed on a woman before 24 weeks of gestation, according to the World Health Organisation. This provides a better estimated gestational age than a traditional last menstrual period estimate, and can reduce the number of induced labors, as well as avoid complications of prematurity.
"Initially parts of Africa and APAC and will leverage our ongoing efforts via the Philips Foundation, providing access to quality healthcare for underserved communities worldwide," said Frassica.