Stories of doctors misdiagnosing medical conditions can be shocking. Unfortunately, we’ve all heard of them. Luckily, not all medical errors are life-threatening. Some can be harmless or cause only temporary problems. It’s the ones that result in fatalities and those that substantially alter a person’s life, that concern us.
Indeed, it was a misdiagnosed medical emergency that lead to the founding of MedyMatch (medymatch.com), an Israeli startup whose goal it is to help doctors better diagnose patients in the Emergency Room.
MedyMatch has created a database comprised of millions of medical images gleaned from cases at hospitals in Israel and the US, specifically, Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The database is an Artificial Intelligence cloud that MedyMatch uses to quickly process the images in effort to identify abnormalities in the image produced of the patient. This is followed by analysis and ultimately a diagnosis based on the results.
“It’s about machine vision – the ability for the computer to actually see something on the image – combined with deep learning. When you combine those two things together, there’s a new category now called Deep Vision: the idea of a machine, or an Artificial Intelligence, to be able to diagnose and learn from thousands of cases, for a specific disease, and then provide the physician a specific recommendation or diagnosis for that particular patient,” explained Michael Rosenberg, CFO and co-founder of MedyMatch, in an interview.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Rosenberg said. “Every single case that comes into the cloud actually continually teaches the application to diagnose better. So the more cases the application sees, the more sensitive the application becomes.”
MedyMatch’s algorithm currently focuses reading CT scans from cerebrovascular incidents that might occur in the ER, including brain trauma, skull fracture, pulmonary embolism, stroke, etc.
But in truth, its implications extend far beyond the lifesaving information it can provide for a single patient.
A recent article about the effects of medical care gone wrong, published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), updated antiquated data that relied on a report from the year 1999 whose figures were based on a study done yet 15 years earlier, in 1984.
The new findings expose “medical error” as the third leading cause of death in the US, after heart disease and cancer, and followed by respiratory disease, accidents and stroke. Over 251,000 people die each year in the US alone due to medical error, and that’s using conservative estimates, according to Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a co-author of the article.
This is certainly not unique to US hospitals. Medical error is a high ranking cause of death throughout the world.
Dr. Makary explained why the results of his study are so significant. “The list of most common causes of death that each country puts out each year is a big deal. It informs all of the research priorities for that country, research funding and public awareness campaigns.”
And so, it turns out that in addition to improving the chances of correctly diagnosing patients in the ER, MedyMatch has the potential to lower the rating of the “medical error” category on the list of leading causes of death in the world.
Reaching further, MedyMatch’s influence might even extend into the realm of medical malpractice. US News and World Report cited a 2013 study, also published in BMJ, showing that diagnosis-related claims make up the majority, and are the most costly of all malpractice claims. Moreover, diagnosis-related errors are the leading cause of claims associated with death and disability.
“If someone has a headache, and you say ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning,’ but the headache is really a brain aneurysm, the patient could die before morning,” said study author Dr. David Newman-Toker, an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
That’s where MedyMatch comes in, to save not just the life of the patient, but also to avoid a lawsuit and at the same time change the world landscape of the medical health field.