Caption Health launches AI-guided, at-home heart ultrasound service

After developing its artificial intelligence programs to coach clinicians through conducting a cardiac ultrasound exam in the hospital room, Caption Health now wants to take that tech into the home.

The company launched a mobile heart diagnostic service dubbed Caption Care through a partnership with Portamedic, which maintains a network of 4,000 medical technicians across 50 states that will employ Caption’s AI echocardiogram platform.

According to the former Fierce 15 winner, heart ultrasounds are the primary tool for identifying cases of heart failure, which is the most common cause of hospitalizations in the U.S. among people over age 65. Currently, about 38% are diagnosed in acute care facilities such as emergency rooms, following often-ignored symptoms such as fatigue or shortness of breath.

“Better assessing cardiovascular and heart failure risk begins with creating affordable access to basic imaging of the heart,” Caption CEO Steve Cashman said in a statement.

Caption’s AI is designed to walk a healthcare provider through a complicated cardiac ultrasound exam, guiding their hands in manipulating the probe to capture the clearest images possible regardless of their level of experience. The task typically requires specialized training and practice to correctly assess the cardiac muscle for signs of weakness or other serious conditions.

After first receiving a de novo clearance from the FDA in early 2020, initially for use with a single type of ultrasound scanner, Caption has looked to expand its approach to new settings and new organs—such as by developing tech for lung exams with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Caption also teamed up with the portable ultrasound maker Butterfly Network to bring AI to its line of handheld devices. 

Now with Portamedic, Caption aims to cover what it describes as a “last mile” separating people from convenient ultrasound exams by bringing an equipped technician to them as more healthcare moves out of the hospital and into the home.

"Given current heart failure guidelines and existing CMS payment models, Medicare Advantage plans will now have a scalable service to help them assess and manage the cardiovascular health for their millions of at-risk members," Cashman said. 

Other companies are looking to make the process even easier by having people self-perform exams with ultrasound hardware shipped through the mail. 

GE Healthcare recently invested in Pulsenmore, which aims to equip expectant parents with the ability to chart their pregnancies at home with a prenatal ultrasound device that connects to a smartphone.