New technologies are seemingly entering all areas of life, and yet a visit to the doctor’s is still in many ways very similar to what it has always been. But a new image analytics tool by the Finnish firm Disior may soon become a new element in the mix.
The company’s software analyses medical images such as CT and MRI scans, and creates mathematical models of bones and soft tissues that can then be analysed for shapes, sizes, angles, volumes and distances. This information is critical for doctors in determining a diagnosis and treatment, and especially useful when preparing, for example, for an orthopaedic surgery.
Take a patient with a fractured eye socket. Disior’s tool helps determine the changes in the volume and shape of the socket – things a doctor needs to know in order to decide what kind of care is needed and whether or not to operate.
“Currently this type of analysis is largely manual, which means that decisions about treatment can be highly subjective,” says Anna-Maria Henell, CEO of Disior. “Our software provides data that is accurate, objective and comparable.”
From smartphones to medicine
Perhaps surprisingly, the expertise behind the algorithms at the core of Disior’s software was originally developed in a very different context: similar algorithms were used in Nokia’s 3D simulation systems to optimise mobile phone mechanics. When Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone business and eventually closed it in 2016, former employees Henell and Sakari Soini had to consider their next move.
The answer was healthcare. “I originally dreamt of becoming a doctor, and that lead us to explore if there was a way to bring our technical knowhow to the field of medicine,” Henell says.
As it turned out, they were able to reprogramme the simulation system to analyse human tissue instead of mobile phone structure.
Entering an entirely new industry, the company knew it needed to build a strong collaboration with doctors, and Henell says that listening to input from healthcare professionals was crucial in making sure that the product matched their needs.
Moreover, understanding the healthcare business was also a challenge initially. But support from experts in the field has helped the company navigate the industry, including its complex business models, need to produce medical research and strict regulations concerning medical products. For instance, Disior’s software will be granted the European CE marking this autumn, certifying its conformity with European regulations.
Doctor still in control
Right now, the firm is focused on the Nordic countries but plans to expand to Central European markets soon. And it already has its eyes set on the US, the biggest healthcare market in the world, where there has been initial interest in the software and where the company already has started collaborations with a few hospitals in Boston.
Henell is keen to emphasise that Disior’s vision is to give support to healthcare professionals and that the technology in no way undermines their traditional role: “With our system the doctor is still entirely in control of making the diagnosis and deciding about treatment. But our software will give them reliable and high-quality data to make those decisions.”
Ultimately, the doctor–patient relationship is at the heart of healthcare and should never be compromised by technology: “When I go to see the doctor, I want to meet a person, not a machine,” Henell says. “But it’s so gratifying to know that people may get better treatment thanks to our product.”