VisualDx, a healthcare informatics company focused on enhancing medical decision-making worldwide, announced today it received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve and extend knowledge of front-line clinicians in remote, underserved areas. The grant will initially focus on providing healthcare workers in Africa with a smart-phone based, offline mobile decision support tool. This milestone further advances the company’s long-term vision of helping to improve care across the globe through differential diagnosis support and personalized care delivery.

Serving Lower-Resource Markets

Accurate, safe, and high-quality medical care is difficult to deliver in low- and middle-income countries where there can often be a lack of trained medical professionals. Many communities do not have access to qualified healthcare workers who can diagnose and treat their medical problems. A strength of VisualDx’s software system is the ability to utilize machine learning and its patented knowledge base to assist with rashes and infectious disease diagnosis. The system can be customized to localize the infectious diseases present in any country in the world, such as Dengue Fever, Chikungunya Virus, Tuberculosis and the infectious diseases seen in AIDS patients. Dermatologists can recognize early signs of infectious disease, but such specialists are scarce in low- and middle-income countries and are often located near urban areas that are inaccessible to 70 percent of the rural population. In Ghana, for example, there were fewer than 25 dermatologists to serve a population of more than 25 million in 2017. The responsibility to identify such infections then shifts to general practitioners and healthcare workers who often lack effective training in skin disease presentation, making it difficult to accurately diagnose.

In order to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, over 18 million additional health workers are needed4. VisualDx will help to equip non-specialists with better knowledge at the point of care. Leveraging VisualDx’s curated medical image library and machine learning capabilities, the VisualDx machine learning component called DermExpert is able to augment general practitioners’ ability to recognize, understand and treat skin conditions. After a clinician takes a photo of the patient’s skin condition via a mobile device, DermExpert immediately analyzes the patient’s skin lesion type and guides the clinician through key questions to help drive an accurate diagnosis. With the support of the Gates Foundation, VisualDx will develop the data infrastructure needed to create a standalone version of DermExpert that can be used in the absence of an internet connection. VisualDx will work with users in Africa to provide design input and participate in field testing to gather feedback for the next iteration, ultimately supporting its ability to provide such tools at scale.

“Under resourced countries face significant challenges in building up equitable access to healthcare, technology and education. Poor connectivity often leaves the most vulnerable populations void of access to critical information,” said Victoria Williams, MD, site director of dermatology, Botswana-UPenn Partnership. “VisualDx is poised to bridge these gaps in connectivity and provide a way for any provider with an electronic device to access a wealth of healthcare decision support tools offline. As a result of this grant, VisualDx will have the opportunity to exponentially increase access to critical healthcare knowledge to providers who need it the most.”

For those in low-and middle-income countries, VisualDx can also assist with education and training of healthcare workers who lack formal training. Unlike other AI technology, VisualDx guides, teaches and facilitates clinicians through a logical, visual method to arrive at a diagnostic conclusion.

“When VisualDx was founded, we recognized the most important challenge facing medicine was having the right information at the time of decision-making. Twenty years later, I’m proud of our team and the progress we’ve made to bring increased speed and accuracy to the art of diagnosis,” said Art Papier, MD, founder and CEO of VisualDx and practicing dermatologist. “Today, we are thrilled to have the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build upon our momentum and enhance diagnostic confidence in areas that need it most. We look forward to the start of a global effort to narrow the international gap in care quality.”

Source: Company Press Release