Hillel's Tech Corner: Time isn’t just money,it can be life or death

There are countless cutting-edge technologies for early detection of cancer and other medical conditions, but the brain, even in 2020, remains somewhat of a black box, a mystery.

Viz.ai (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I have a friend who recently had a stroke. It changed his entire life and the life of his family. It is a truly tragic ongoing story. In the medical world, there are countless cutting-edge technologies for early detection of cancer and other medical conditions, but the brain, even in 2020, remains somewhat of a black box, a mystery. Of course, in the case of strokes, every minute, every second, can literally be the difference between life and death, so detecting signs of a stroke as early as possible is monumentally important to a patient.
Stroke treatment changed dramatically in 2015, when five randomized-controlled trials were ended prematurely, after proving unequivocally that a new type of treatment – mechanical thrombectomy – is considerably more effective than any other treatment for the most devastating kind of stroke – large vessel occlusions (LVOs). Mechanical thrombectomy is a minimally invasive surgery, whereby an interventionist maneuvers a catheter that is inserted through a small incision in the groin, all the way to the blood vessels in the brain. Suction or utilization of a special stent to remove the clot is then applied. However, most medical centers do not have the staff, equipment and experience to perform this operation. The majority of stroke patients are admitted to primary hospitals, where they can be scanned, diagnosed and receive first line of treatment, but LVO patients then need to be triaged and transferred to a comprehensive stroke center, where they can receive the life-saving mechanical thrombectomy.
Providing accurate and timely care to LVO stroke patients requires synchronization between multiple care providers (including ED physicians, radiologists, neurologists, interventionalists, as well as ER and OR nurses, anesthesiologists, transportation and more) spread between various locations (including some who are sleeping at home or coaching a little league practice). Any failure or delay in this long series of diagnoses and handoffs can result in dramatic delays of care.
What’s really important to emphasize here is that not only is the time window for treatment limited, even within that window, every minute that goes by, the patient outcome worsens.
The statistics are pretty astounding. Every minute, the brain loses on average 1.9 million neurons. Stroke neurologists have a saying “save a minute – save a week” – for every minute of delay, the patients lose about a week of healthy life (on average). A 15-minute delay translates into a 4% increase in the probability of a life-long disability.
That is the problem that is solving. Viz.ai is a medical imaging company that specializes in optimizing emergency treatment by combining artificial intelligence, deep learning, automation and medical imaging to help doctors diagnose and treat patients quickly.
Viz.ai uses artificial intelligence to analyze CT scans quickly and accurately. The AI identifies patients with an LVO and alerts the relevant on-call stroke specialists. The physicians can view the CT scans on their mobile device, and interact with their team via a secure messaging platform, allowing them to synchronize stroke care and facilitate faster treatment.
By now, we have read the words artificial intelligence so many times that we instinctively roll our eyes upon hearing that a company says they use AI to solve a problem. However, when a technology can use AI to actually save lives, that is when we understand the true power of innovation.
THE COMPANY received FDA approval for its products in the US in February 2018. Last summer, it raised a $21 million series A, followed by an additional $50 million series B only a few weeks ago. Investors include Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Kleiner Perkins, Google’s GV (previously Google Ventures) and Greenoaks. In other words, Viz.ai is backed by some of the world’s most sophisticated investors and most brilliant minds. More recently, Viz.ai partnered with medical device giant Medtronic to accelerate the adoption of its AI software. Medtronic is a world leader in neuro-interventional devices.
With offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, Viz.ai was founded by Dr. Chris Mansi, a neurosurgeon with an MBA from Stanford University and Dr. David Golan, an Israeli post-doctoral machine learning student at Stanford University. Again, brilliant minds.
In clinical trials, Viz’s technology was able to detect signs of a stroke and let the relevant physician know 52 minutes before the standard care would have. Fifty-two minutes is literally a lifetime in this case.
Viz uses deep-learning technology to automatically detect and directly alert the on-call stroke physician about suspected large vessel occlusions (LVOs) across their entire stroke network. These actions occur within minutes and are combined with insights from the company’s automated perfusion software and its convenient HIPAA-compliant mobile viewing and messaging software.
The company’s products include the Viz LVO and Viz CTP platforms. Both are FDA cleared and commercially available in the United States. The Viz LVO uses artificial intelligence to automatically detect LVO strokes and triage patients directly to a stroke specialist. The Viz CTP uses advanced processing technology to automatically analyze CT perfusion images and generate parametric perfusion color maps – which are useful for differentiating dead from dying brain tissue. Viz.ai also provides a mobile application allowing care teams to view CT scans on the go, and communicate via a secure chat, allowing seamless communication between the caregivers to provide faster treatment.
The company’s software is currently available in more than 300 hospitals across the US.
With lots of capital in the bank, FDA approval, and strategic partnerships with giants like Medtronic, Viz.ai is positioned perfectly to become the ultimate global solution for early stroke detection and prevention.
We all know the saying “time is money,” but in the case of strokes, time can be a whole lot more than money, it can actually equal the chances of surviving one more day.