Healthcare services on the Africa continent appear to be overused and under-resourced.
In a continent that makes up 16.72% of the world’s population, where 41% is under the age of 15, healthcare providers are challenged by the significant burden of disease.
Globally, respiratory and congenital heart disease are among the prevailing causes of morbidity and mortality in children under 5 years of age and this appears to be common in Sub Saharan Africa.
This has been further heightened by the fact that there are few fellowship-trained Paediatric Radiologists in Africa.
However, we caught up with Jaishree Naidoo, a Paediatric Radiologist, who doubles as the Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of Envisionit Deep AI (EDAI)
Established in 2019, Envisionit Deep AI is an innovative medical technology company that deploys Artificial Intelligence to transform medical imaging diagnosis.
The medical tech company is headquartered in the UK with a base in South Africa.
EDAI is guided by its vision to positively impact healthcare by using revolutionary technology like Artificial Intelligence to democratize access to diagnostic healthcare across Africa.
Jaishree took us through how the health tech company is revolutionalizing health care in Africa
A background on how you started?
If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be a tech entrepreneur, I’d have said “No way!”. My purpose was always to serve.
I am a Paediatric Radiologist with 20 years’ experience working in public hospitals and have participated in outreach efforts throughout Africa.
In 2010 I became the first South African trained Paediatric Radiologist and I’m still one of only 20 Paediatric Radiologists on the African continent.
“Through the years and through my experience I knew I was making a difference by training more Paediatric Radiologists but I realized that with just human capacity alone we can’t solve some of the challenges we face on this continent.”
It was then that I became more interested in technology and how transformative I knew it could be.
That’s what actually started Envisionit Deep AI, a purpose-driven company with a vision to democratize access to diagnostic healthcare.
An overview of access to healthcare in Africa?
Africa is the youngest continent in the world, where pneumonia is the number 1 killer of children under the age of 5 years.
We face an epidemic of occupational lung diseases. Biologic and social factors combine to create a significant challenge due to the interaction amongst opportunistic infectious diseases like tuberculosis and HIV.
In addition, the health care services are under-resourced and overused and COVID-19 is a threat to our already fragile health system and has placed an increased burden on doctors across the world.
Hospitals and Practices across Africa are experiencing an increasing demand for diagnostic imaging.
There are limited resources and medical specialists to make a diagnosis. The volume of x-rays, CT scans and MRI’s generated have always outpaced the number of qualified radiologists on hand to label and generate reports, creating bottlenecks in the system, often unintentionally leaving urgent cases in the queue for hours on end.
Misdiagnosis is therefore common and human error can result in increased medical-legal exposure to practitioners.
Many life-threatening diseases are being missed on imaging due to the lack of specialist expertise.
The role technology can play in Africa’s healthcare sector?
Jaishree explained that using transformative technology with artificial intelligence can help to augment and multiply the roles of specialist doctors.
According to her, instead of training one Paediatric Radiologist a year, AI can augment and empower doctors to prioritise life-threatening diseases and provide a more patient-centric health care delivery.
“AI will help us solve some of the challenges that we were not able to in the past. However, it’s not perfect and the best solution is to enable technology to work with the doctor where you have the benefits of experience and efficiency merged together.”
How Envisionit Deep AI deploys technology in solving healthcare problems in Africa?
By leveraging the use of machine learning and the expertise of Radiologists, Envisionit Deep AI has created a platform called RADIFY.
RADIFY for chest x-rays was developed primarily because pneumonia is the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in children under the age of 5 in Africa.
A senseless statistic when it is a disease that is so easy to treat. With RADIFY, diagnostic healthcare can be made available where there is a lack of specialist expertise.
RADIFY enables doctors to diagnose more images, more consistently and accurately in less time and at a lower cost whilst prioritising care for patients who need it most.
RADIFY for chest x-rays detects 20 different pathologies including COVID-19 pneumonia and prioritises the most urgent cases for the doctors.
RADIFY for mammography assists with the early detection of breast cancer. RADIFY for ultrasound is a solution that enables radiology level performance at the point of care.
Concerning your vision as stated on your website, how do you intend to achieve that?
Jaishree explained that the company’s vision is to democratize diagnostic healthcare for Africa, “but we’ve realized through the challenges we’ve faced, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, that this challenge is a global issue and we can cross borders with our AI solution and apply and adapt it anywhere in the world.”
We will enable continuity of care, early detection and a more proactive form of health service delivery with early detection and will be more effective than the current reactive one.
As Africans, we know our problems better than anyone and are therefore able to provide solutions to these problems. We have the resilience and tenacity to overcome these challenges with really innovative solutions.
We believe in fostering key strategic partnerships to unlock the value as well as to retain our customers.”
Any other thing worth sharing about Envisionit Deep AI?
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided our RADIFY for COVID-19 platform free to doctors in order to assist them to analyse COVID-19 pneumonia.
RADIFY prioritises cases that have a high suspicion of COVID-19 pneumonia into high probability, intermediate and low probability.
We were also able to implement this solution in two academic tertiary hospitals where RADIFY analyzed more than 70k chest x-rays.
Envisionit Deep AI won the Best Health Tech Award and the Social Impact Award at the 2020 Apps Africa Innovation Awards.
Featured Image: Jaishree Naidoo, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of Envisionit Deep AI (EDAI)
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