Artificial Intelligence

The State of Cardiology AI

There’s generally more healthcare AI buzz than actual real world clinical use, and that’s probably true within cardiology too. However, the cardiology AI segment is showing more clinical and commercial promise than just about any AI segment in healthcare outside of radiology, and its rapid evolution is worth our attention. 

Because of that, we’re taking a deep dive into the state of cardiology AI and the key trends driving its growth.

The cardiac CT AI segment has a lot going for it, including two of the highest funded startups in all of imaging AI (Cleerly ~$280M, HeartFlow ~$793M), the strongest reimbursement in healthcare AI (FFR-CT & plaque), and a unique level of guideline support (chest pain). It’s also home to a number of promising trends, including:

  • A growing wave of new and innovative cardiac CT AI startups 
  • More vendors expanding to comprehensive CCTA AI portfolios
  • Momentum towards using routine chest CTs for incidental CVD detection

The echo AI segment remains extremely active, including a pair of high-profile startup acquisitions (DiA Image Analysis by Philips, and Caption Heath by GE), growing momentum towards reimbursements (user guidance and HF detection), and a long list of complementary macro factors (sonographer shortages, home/remote care growth, improving HF treatments). Other key echo AI segment drivers include:

  • Diverse workflow integration options (ultrasound devices, AI platforms, PACS workflows, etc.)
  • Leadership from OEM-backed and well funded echo AI companies
  • New innovations from a growing list of emerging echo AI startups

The ECG AI segment doesn’t get as much attention as CT or echo, but it’s arguably the most diverse cardiology AI segment and could prove to be the most impactful, driven by its broad range of use cases and its support by some of the most influential organizations in healthcare. ECG AI is also seeing a number of notable trends, including:

  • AI amplifying current ECG processes and creating completely new use cases
  • Pharma companies actively backing ECG AI startups to find more treatable patients
  • Big data AI firms and medtech OEMs acquiring ECG AI companies

The cardiac MRI AI segment has historically lagged behind other cardiac modalities, which isn’t surprising given CMRI’s complexity, low exam volumes, and small reimbursements. Still, the CMRI AI segment includes a solid array of post-processing solutions that automate key measurements and workflows. We’re also seeing some emerging trends that could drive future CMRI AI momentum:

  • Deep learning-based MR image reconstruction solutions expanding to CMRI
  • CMRI AI solutions becoming well represented on multi-vendor AI platforms
  • AI growth in other cardiac modalities could help drive CMRI AI innovation and adoption

The Takeaway

If you assess the typical cardiology news cycle or take a look at the booths and presentations at the major cardiology conferences, it’s clear that cardiology AI is in its very early stages. However, that relatively low level of cardiology AI attention makes this early momentum even more remarkable, and could suggest that this segment is poised for far more growth in the coming years.

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-- The Cardiac Wire Team

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