If I were a betting man, I would say that all of you know at least one person who has been affected by heart disease. After all, the World Health Organization cites cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in the world.
It’s no surprise then, that there are a lot of people out there working on improving cardiovascular health. A while back, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jordan Engbers, CEO of Cohesic Inc., to talk about what they’re doing in the cardiac health space.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Sometimes we need some help to make accurate diagnoses of potential heart conditions. It’s not always enough for a doctor to put a stethoscope to your chest to know everything. That’s where techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) come in. MRI uses powerful magnetic fields to excite and generate images from protons in your body. It is a common method to take images of tissues such as the brain and the heart, in both 2D, 3D, and even 4D (i.e. over time). In Alberta, MRIs are conducted through both hospitals and private clinics. Physicians will refer patients to get an MRI if deemed necessary.
Like other diagnostic imaging tests, MRIs are annotated by radiologists before they are sent to the referring physician. The radiologist comments on what they observe from the scans and what they interpret from the data.
Depending on the clinic and the radiologist, though, these notes can be variable and rather subjective. That’s where Cohesic comes in.
Cohesic is a health informatics software company. They focus on improving the quality of data collected from cardiac MRI reports without disrupting the workflows of other physicians.
It surprised me to learn that in many clinics, cardiac MRIs are actually dictated verbally based on what the radiologist observes. These dictations are sent out as a final report to the referring physician. This means that one radiologist’s report can differ from a colleague’s report on the same case.
Cohesic’s Acuity platform streamlines this process with the help of artificial intelligence. MRI data is coded and categorized, which standardizes how things are reported. From this data, a report is printed out in plain English using Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology. (Well, plain for people with years of medical training, at least.)
Your referring physician expects a written report of your MRI results, and the Acuity platform doesn’t disrupt that. Even though a lot of data analysis is happening in the background, the physician still gets a written report at the end.
“Compared to electronic health record (EHR) and speech-to-text software, we can produce cleaner data that is consolidated, structured, and digitized,” says Engbers. Having metadata helps automate processes down the line. For example, other electronic health records could use the metadata to update patient records without manual entry.
Past, Present, and Future
The prototype was developed by the founder, Dr. James White, a cardiologist at the University of Calgary. White is now Chief Medical Officer of Cohesic while serving double duty as the Director of the Stephenson Cardiac Imaging Centre. Engbers has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary and has worked on data science projects for over 7 years. He joined Cohesic in 2016 as CTO and eventually became the CEO in November of 2017.
The company has since grown to 7 people and continues to expand. Cohesic aims to serve hospital systems first. They already have 5 paying customers across Canada including Alberta Health Services (AHS), and are beginning expansions in to the US market.
A number of investors are also taking interest in Cohesic. As of our conversation in early August, the startup has almost finished a $1.3M seed round. I asked Engbers what the next goals are with this funding, and what would help them grow faster.
“What we need help with is finding the right people. We need strong leaders with experience who can help us scale and deliver the best possible product and service,” says Engbers. There are plenty of mentors who have helped them out so far, such as the Creative Destruction Lab and Alberta Innovates, but Engbers is always keeping an eye out for talent who can join the team full-time.
Cohesic’s platform will be a valuable tool to streamline healthcare in cardiac imaging. They are also expanding their platform to cardiac CT and other diagnostic imaging modalities in the future, so I’m excited to see how the company grows in the next few years.
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