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AI support and remote reading to reduce pandemic backlog
The coronavirus pandemic has made a considerable dent in breast cancer screening programmes across the world. Many women dropped out of their normal schedules, and diagnostic backlog is significant. ‘Longer intervals between screening appointments result in cancers being found at more advanced stages, so as a first step, we encourage women to get back into their normal schedules,’ said Jennifer Meade, Division President of Breast and Skeletal Health Solutions at Hologic.
The company aims to address the challenge of reduced reading capacities for radiologists from two sides: firstly, by optimising diagnostic workflows and, secondly, by improving remote reading capabilities. Meade points to existing solutions like Hologic’s Brevera Breast Biopsy system, which combines tissue acquisition, real-time imaging, verification, and post-biopsy handling in an integrated system, saving up to ten minutes per patient. To reinforce this, the company has recently launched an artificial intelligence-based assistance system called Genius AI.* ‘It helps radiologists determine which cases they should prioritise from a reading perspective, which ones have lower priority and lower complexity so that they can be more efficient with how they're moving through their overall workflow,’ she explained.
Article • Cancer screening
Driving breast cancer screening compliance is an essential part of improving clinical outcomes, and one way to do this is to educate women about their breast density, advises Tracy Accardi, Hologic’s Global Vice President of Research and Development for Breast Health & Skeletal Solutions.
AI also plays an important role in what Hologic has termed “Continuum of Care”, a series of interlocking systems to accompany a patient through the entire clinical pathway, from risk assessment to final treatment. ‘It’s not just about finding the right imaging modality,’ said Tanja Brycker, Vice President of Strategic Development, Breast and Skeletal Health and Gynecological Surgical Solutions at Hologic. ‘For example, breast density is an important risk factor, so this information enters the recommended frequency of screening intervals, which in turn has an influence on diagnostics and biopsy procedures. We make use of AI to link all this information in a way that benefits the clinicians and enhances clinical confidence.’
Insights to encourage better women’s health policies
However, advanced diagnostic systems achieve little when patients cannot access them. Realising this, Hologic partnered up with polling company Gallup for the Global Women’s Health Index, Brycker explained. As part of the survey, women were asked about their experiences with health and healthcare, from access to medical institutions to more basic needs such as water, food, transportation, or personal safety. ‘This is the first global single measure of women’s health ever created. We are reaching 2.7 million women in 122 countries, enabling a direct comparison of the state of women’s health all over the world.’ The first annual results of the poll were recently presented – in short, there is still a long way to go.
If women do not have awareness or access, if they can't afford care, if there is no cultural and societal support and prioritisation of women, there's not a lot that technology can doJennifer Meade
Not surprisingly, the survey found that countries with authoritarian governments and low regard for women’s rights tend to offer very poor standards of healthcare for women. But even in highly developed countries at the top range of the poll’s results, a lot of potential for improvement was discovered. These include the efficacy of screening programmes, but also aspects of doctor-patient communication, as many women report that they feel they are not taken seriously when they present with a medical condition.
For Hologic, the Index is not only an assessment of the current situation, but also an incentive to improve upon existing shortcomings: ‘We provide the findings from the poll to the countries, so they can present them to their prime ministers, governors, and ministers of health so that policies can be developed over the following years,’ said Tanja Brycker. And Jennifer Meade added: ‘Of course, we are very excited talking at ECR about new technologies we are developing and how they drive clinical outcomes. But if women do not have awareness or access, if they can't afford care, if there is no cultural and societal support and prioritisation of women, there's not a lot that technology can do.’ (WB)
* Please note: Genius AI launched in the US; CE mark for Europe pending