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Advancing Healthcare in Africa through AI-based Radiology

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By: Mayowa Abejirin, CEO, EpochZero, and Rahul Unnikrishnan Nair, Technical Lead, Intel® Liftoff for Startups


Global demand for medical imaging scans is soaring, but almost two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t have access to radiology services. In Nigeria, for example, there is just one radiologist per 600,000 people.


In addition to Nigeria’s scarce access to radiology services and radiologists, its healthcare sector has a severe brain-drain problem. More than 13,600 healthcare workers left Nigeria for the UK between 2021 and 2022. For patients, this means delays in access to diagnoses and treatment.


Mayowa Abejirin, an AI and robotics expert, wants to plug these gaps in radiology access across Sub-Saharan Africa, starting first in Nigeria. Abejirin is the CEO of EpochZero, a company that is working to improve the quality of life in Nigeria by increasing access to innovative medical technology and quality healthcare services.


EpochZero optimizes radiology workflows using artificial intelligence to read and interpret chest X-rays and automate report generation. The software is able to check for more than 10 common clinical pathologies in the chest region and notify a radiologist when the situation is critical. By automatically triaging chest X-rays and providing AI suggestions, the technology is poised to improve the quality of diagnosis and reduce turnaround times by more than 100%.


EpochZero is part of Intel® Liftoff for Startups, a free virtual startup accelerator program offered by Intel’s Software and Advanced Technology Group. The program is designed to help early-stage tech startups on their path to innovation and growth. EpochZero joined in August 2022 and was the first African startup onboarded in the program.


For growing AI startups, programs like Liftoff for Startups can offer numerous benefits for building out AI solutions, including access to tools, resources, technical expertise, and mentorships. Liftoff for Startups is characterized by rigorous technical problem-solving, strategic guidance, and facilitating our partners' access to our cutting-edge technology. 


“Through our participation in the Intel® Liftoff for Startups program, we performed accelerated computing for medical imaging deep learning tasks on the 4th Generation Xeon Scalable CPU on the Intel Developer Cloud before its official release, and the results were stunning,” Abejirin said.


In this complex AI ecosystem, Intel’s mission with Liftoff for Startups extends beyond acceleration. The program is committed to co-creating robust, scalable solutions with partners and directly contributing to technological innovation.


EpochZero applied pre-processing techniques and carried out inference on a batch of 752 tuberculosis X-ray images. The team found that with a batch size of one, inference took 5.65 seconds on a single socket 4th Generation Xeon Scalable CPU on Intel Developer Cloud. Inference on the 4th Generation Xeon Scalable CPU was more than twice as fast as the on-premise GPU EpochZero had been using for testing and development.

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For many patients, every second, from diagnosis to treatment, counts. Reducing turnaround times in diagnostic imaging workflows by more than 100% helps patients get timely access to medical diagnosis and treatment. A two- to three-time speed up in inference times results in faster turnarounds, giving patients in critical condition a greater chance of survival.


“EpochZero's radiology AI solution will enable seamless healthcare service delivery required for proper patient management, thereby reducing patient waiting time with respect to radiology reports, as digitalization is the way forward,” said Uchenna Onyebuchi Ezeokeke, assistant director of radiography in the Federal Capital Territory Administration of Abuja, Nigeria.


Intel® Liftoff for Startups program, which is now accepting new applications,  is open to early-stage startups using accelerated computing technology. This free virtual program helps companies innovate and scale, regardless of their entrepreneurial journey.