Imaging businesses: Artificial Intelligence making X-ray reports less opaque

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There is an extreme shortage of radiologists in the country with just one radiologist per 100,000 people, as against the recommended ratio of 1:1,000. This means radiologists have to work longer hours, which can lead to burnout and reporting errors as they get just three-four seconds to read one image, says Meenakshi Singh, co-founder & CEO of Synapsica, an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based radiology reporting company, founded by a team of doctors and technologists, that is becoming popular not just in India but around the world for chest and spine-related solutions.

Radiology reports are opaque to patients without simple explanations of the extent of injury and their correlation with symptoms. According to Singh, AI can help reduce the workload of radiologists by automating several tasks and generating detailed preliminary reports that can be quickly finalised. This also ensures accuracy, objectivity and efficiency in radiology reporting. No wonder, there has been a rise in the number of imaging and reporting firms that are shifting to this niche technology.

Synapsica’s products are available in more than 500+ locations globally, including the US, Africa, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Recently, they raised $4.2 mn in a Series A round from Silicon Valley-based incubator Y Combinator, and capital funds IvyCap Ventures and Endiya Partners. The firm plans to expand its customer base in the US and Africa and build one in the UK, Australia, and Dubai.

“Our products Spindle and SpindleX produce reports that are standardised, objective and have illustrative images comparing the extent of trauma to the expected normal,” says Singh. “AI-generated reports are also more patient-readable and improve communication with the clinician about the patient’s condition.”

The adoption of AI in the Indian healthcare space is way behind the US where almost all large hospitals use some form of AI, especially in radiology. India is at an evolving stage where diagnostics centres and large hospitals are doing clinical trials to compare AI-generated reports with those generated by humans. These trials are conducted for two to six months to ensure that the automated diagnosis is as good as what a radiologist might offer.

“However, Covid-19 has created an urgency to adopt AI in healthcare and radiology is at the forefront of adopting it,” says Singh, who founded Synapsica in 2019 along with Kuldeep Singh Chauhan (CTO) and Cherian (COO). “We are witnessing an increasing number of individual radiologists, hospitals and radiology centres move towards AI as it enables them to handle many more cases (at least 3X) in less time. In fact, we have more than doubled our client base in the past year.”

According to Singh, there are over 30k imaging businesses in India operating with less than 10k radiologists. Due to this, the cost of hiring talent in imaging businesses is often high and unoptimised, putting pressure on already thin margins for small- to mid-size centres. Radiologists, on the other hand, have to visit multiple centres to increase their income.

“Synapsica is bridging this gap. This gives radiologists more time to focus on the work that requires their expertise,” she says. “We offer the only AI-first radiology workflow solution that not only automates clinical report reading, but also back-office case management that usually forms 40-50% of the cost header for imaging businesses.”

Synapsica has helped several of its clients increase their reach and reduce operational costs. For instance, a radiologist from AIIMS who started a venture with other radiologists and was facing operational issues was able to double the case volume in three months and treble it in 7-8 months with Synapsica, says Singh. Another radiologist from PGI Chandigarh was able to increase earnings by 40-50% by optimising his work timings according to availability, she says.