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New Opportunities Emerge For AI In Medical Imaging

August 13, 2018 -- The promise of artificial intelligence (AI) for medical image analysis may draw most of the attention, but AI has the potential to enhance the entire medical imaging process and enable "intelligent" imaging systems, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

New Opportunities Emerge For AI In Medical Imaging

Cognitive computing techniques can be applied to enhance the entire medical imaging chain, leading to the development of "smart" medical imaging processes, said Nadim Daher, industry principal for medical imaging and informatics at the firm.

AI could also be embedded within imaging modalities, ushering in a new era of medical imaging instrumentation, he said during an August 9 webinar.

"Image analysis is the low-hanging fruit for AI, but there's a lot more coming," he said.

A Dynamic Market

The initial focus for applying artificial intelligence in medical imaging applications was on utilizing the technology on-premises -- applying local niche algorithms to images in traditional radiology environments. Over the past two to three years, however, the market has been moving toward delivering AI technology to users via the cloud -- making AI more widely available and enabling algorithms to continuously learn from a higher usage volume, Daher said.

Perhaps a more exciting trend, though, is a move toward applying AI algorithms at the "edge" -- i.e., performed at the imaging modalities themselves rather than a PACS or postprocessing workstation, according to Daher. The first steps are being made toward embedding deep-learning AI technology into scanners, applying algorithms to raw image data.

The medical imaging AI marketplace today is characterized by a dynamic and diversified competitive landscape, including major cloud computing vendors with partner-based imaging AI initiatives, computing acceleration vendors, cloud marketplace vendors, health IT vendors with a cloud partner ecosystem, core medical imaging and informatics vendors, major IT vendors, and more than 90 independent software vendors, according to Daher. The total number of medical imaging analysis AI start-ups has also grown from two in 2009 to 83 in 2017.

Money has also poured into this field. More than $1 billion -- led by $466.5 million invested in cardiovascular software developer HeartFlow -- has been raised in fewer than five years in the medical imaging AI market, Daher said. That total rises to as much as $6 billion if you include merger and acquisition activity and research and development from established market players, he added.

Image Analysis

The use of AI for automating, accelerating, or augmenting image analysis remains the primary area of market activity for medical imaging AI. Sid Shah, an industry analyst for visionary healthcare at Frost & Sullivan, said that CT and MRI are the most prominent imaging modalities being focused on by medical imaging AI firms.