A pregnant mother. A farmer with a broken leg. A child with pneumonia. A rural town experiencing a COVID19 outbreak. Medical imaging plays a critical role in providing care for each of these patients, yet in 2020, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population lack access to the simplest radiological procedures, while radiologists in COVID19 hot zones put themselves at risk of exposure when reading imaging within a hospital setting.
Given proper access to x-ray and ultrasound services, the Pan America Health Organization estimates that 70% – 80% of diagnostic problems could be resolved, yet this is a challenging problem. Firstly, the machines used to generate medical images are expensive and immobile. The traditional reading room hardware setup typically includes multiple 24-inch monitors, computer towers, and a large footprint desk. This spacious setup creates friction for remote, on-demand interpretation of medical images, and the cost for a single reading station can be upwards of $30,000 USD. As such, they are typically only available in urban centers, leaving remote, rural areas with limited access. Secondly, medical images, once generated, need to be stored and made accessible to radiologists for interpretation. However, digital imaging infrastructure can also be expensive and is not commonly available in resource-limited settings. Thirdly, radiologists are unequally distributed around the world. For example, fewer than 100 radiologists work in Nigeria, a country of nearly 200 million, while over 2000 radiologists work in Canada, with a population of only 38 million. Finally, accessing one’s workspace in a COVID-19 exposed center puts a radiologist at risk of exposure themselves.
SieVRt is a portable, virtual radiology “reading room in a headset,” consisting of a comprehensive, mobile, low-cost radiology and reading package that offers a solution to the distributed radiology problem. The system is extensively configurable for optimal image quality and data presentation on a VR headset, negating the need for multiple monitors, or for physicians to be tied to physical environments. The physician is free to collaborate with other specialists within the same virtual space. SieVRt integrates with multiple modalities, such as x-ray and ultrasound machines, allowing image interpretation anywhere, anytime, addressing the barriers above to provide widespread radiology services by addressing equipment costs, image storage, radiologist access and physician safety.
The core SieVRt software is built, operable on every major VR hardware set, and can stand as a full-service solution. We are working with industry Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) vendors to integrate SieVRt into existing enterprise systems, and looking to partner with mobile imaging machine providers to fully integrate their hardware.
Key markets include urban centers looking to save on equipment costs and physical space while keeping radiology staff safe in the time of COVID-19, under-serviced rural areas, and the developing world. We will initially target urban and rural areas in Canada and the USA, with parallel pilots occurring in Africa and the Middle East. We anticipate scaling around the world on-demand. By reducing barriers to diagnosis, SieVRt will facilitate care for millions.