KENYA—Royal Philips, a global pioneer in health technology, has announced a second round of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, bringing the total investment to US$60 million.

This contribution is intended to help accelerate the global use of AI algorithms on the Philips Lumify Handheld Ultrasound.

Training time to use ultrasound equipment can be lowered from weeks to only hours by applying AI to simplify crucial metrics for identifying anomalies during pregnancy.

This has the potential to significantly increase the number of frontline health workers who can learn to utilize technology and integrate it into everyday treatment.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has noticed a favourable impact in Kenya from the first wave of grant financing in 2021, where the technology has helped promote better-informed decision-making when triaging pregnant women in remote underprivileged communities.

Phillips will use this fresh round of money to help bring the AI-assisted tool to impoverished communities throughout the world.

Every day, almost 800 women die from preventable causes connected to pregnancy and childbirth around the world, with low- and lower-middle-income countries accounting for nearly 95% of all maternal fatalities in 2020.

Skilled health professionals’ care before, during, and after childbirth can help save the lives of women and newborns all around the world.

The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women have at least one ultrasound scan before 24 weeks of gestation to evaluate gestational age and improve the diagnosis of fetal abnormalities.

Philips Lumify Handheld Ultrasound will be the first commercially available point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) device to assist non-expert users by automating image acquisition or image interpretation for a comprehensive set of obstetrics measurements, thereby increasing quality access to early fetal ultrasound scans.

According to Jeff Cohen, General Manager of Ultrasound at Philips, “Ultrasound is the first tool of choice to scan pregnant women, but it also requires training to understand how to scan properly and correctly in order to make the right image interpretations.”

He stated that by assisting front-line healthcare personnel, such as midwives, in identifying possible difficulties in pregnancy at an early stage, Philips will drastically reduce the number of women who die as a result of pregnancy.

Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the second phase, he claims, will allow them to bring this idea to market as a commercial service.

This will assist them in increasing quality access to care and improving maternal health in underserved and rural populations worldwide, in both developed and developing countries.

Dr. Rasa Izadnegahdar, Director, Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Discovery & Tools at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stated that one of their key areas of focus is to build partnerships that bring together resources, expertise, and vision—working with organizations worldwide to identify issues, find solutions, and drive change. 

He also claimed that the major mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is to provide health innovations to underserved areas of the world.

This will help to a considerable extent in preventing women from dying during childbirth, which is a critical issue in high-income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

During a trial period in Kenya, comments on the new tool revealed a favourable impact attributable to digitalization, informatics, and AI, with the operator not required to interpret the photos.

Midwives’ training has been cut from weeks to hours without compromising their trust in triage. It is also reassuring for expectant mothers to know how their baby is developing.

Depending on the results, patients may be sent to a qualified sonographer for picture evaluation and, if necessary, additional examination.

According to Matthijs Groot Wassink, General Manager for Point of Care and Obstetric Ultrasound at Philips, this disruptive technology introduces a new way of ultrasound scanning in which midwives and non-expert users are guided by the algorithm to give them access to critical information they need most when triaging pregnant women in underserved areas and rural settings.

He explained that the prototype detects six essential factors for high-risk evaluations to help enhance the health of both woman and baby, such as gestational age and placenta placement.

Furthermore, with the automated AI capabilities incorporated into Philips Lumify, frontline professionals can discover irregularities early, helping to boost the mother’s confidence and comfort in any decisions or care courses she chooses to pursue or not.

Every year, Philips Ultrasound equipment installed throughout the world performs an estimated 1.33 billion diagnostic and interventional treatments.

Philips continues to provide industry-first advancements in areas such as 3D imaging of the heart, AI-powered quantification tools, and ultra-mobile portable ultrasound solutions with its latest AI-enabled POCUS prototype.

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