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AiThority Interview with Itamar Kandel, Chief Executive Officer at Vista.ai

Itamar Kandel, Chief Executive Officer at Vista.ai

Please tell us a little bit about your journey in the industry and how you arrived at Vista.ai.

Vista.ai’s seeds were planted at Stanford University’s Magnetic Resonance Systems Research Laboratory (MRSRL) where Drs. Juan Santos and William Overall studied and researched applications of real-time MRI. In 2012, they joined forces with renowned Stanford cardiologist and professor at MRSRL, Dr. Bob Hu, to found HeartVista. Together they started developing software, eventually guided by AI algorithms, with a specific aim of improving the efficiency and consistency of CMR exams. In June 2019 HeartVista brought in Itamar Kandel as CEO to start commercializing the software, and shortly thereafter added Silicon Valley luminary Mark Leslie to its Board of Directors. Since then, HeartVista has received multiple FDA 510(k) Clearances on Siemens Healthineers and GE Healthcare MRI scanners and announced Stanford Healthcare as its first marquee customer, quickly followed by other leading U.S. hospitals. While HeartVista is focused on scaling up its cardiac business in 2023, in the near future the company will broaden its offering to include MRI scans for other anatomies. In anticipation of this expansion HeartVista rebranded to Vista.ai in November 2022.

What is Vista.ai? What are your core offerings?

Vista.ai develops One Click MRITM, AI-guided software that automates MRI exams by simplifying and accelerating image acquisition so any clinician can perform scans quickly, accurately, and affordably. While our initial goal with One Click MRI was to address pent up demand for cardiac MRIs (CMRs), in the near future the company will broaden its offering to include MRI scans for other anatomies.

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Which industries are you currently targeting to grow your business and why?

Currently we are targeting medical imaging only. Cardiac MRI is our first and we’ve announced our expansion to prostate and spine imaging.

Automated MRI technology is growing at a rapid pace. Could you tell us how you have scaled your product from scratch?

The company was founded in 2012, so the investment in product (AI algorithms, developing our own scan sequences, etc.) has been taking place for well over a decade. The initial focus of HeartVista (Vista.ai) was on real-time imaging, so technologists and radiologists could observe scanned images live on their monitors. In and of itself this was a major enhancement, so techs wouldn’t need to wait until the end of a batch to determine if images were of diagnostic quality or if artifacts were present (requiring rescan and creating wasted time). The AI capability was then added, which led HeartVista to work with the leading technologists in the country to scan thousands of patients and generate millions of images to develop and hone the algorithms. HeartVista received 510(k) c******** on GE Healthcare machines in Oct 2019 and Siemens Healthineers scanner in Nov 2021. Vista.ai targeted the country’s best cardiac hospitals and academic medical centers as its first collaborators and customers to further hone and pressure test the software. Most recently, Brigham and Women’s hospital released positive results from a clinical study on the software, paving the way for Vista.ai’s further market penetration and scale up.

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What challenges do you see in the existing healthcare industry that prevents adoption of automated MRI solutions? What are the legal and regulatory complications?

As with any AI tool which automates work previously done exclusively by humans, there is the understandable fear of becoming obsolete and being replaced by the machine. These fears create resistance and slow down automation tools adoption. However, as is also true for many other professions, clinicians who adopt and partner with the AI will thrive and become more productive and will supervise rather than be replaced by the machine. Clinicians who do not use automated MRI solutions are much more likely to be replaced by those who do.

From a regulatory and legal perspective, there is nothing unique or specific about automated MRI tools compared to other automation tools in healthcare. The FDA is evolving its processes and creating better and more streamlined ways to test AI tools for efficacy and safety. The legal framework for liability is also pretty well established.

What kind of training and resources does Vista.ai provide to CMR operators? Have you analyzed the effectiveness of these tools and training resources?

Current CMR workflows are complicated, labor intensive, require specialized skills, and take 2-3 times longer than a standard MRI exam. 700,000 people in the U.S. (20%) die of heart disease each year[i] yet CMRs account for only 2% of MRI scans in the country.[ii] And the problem is only getting worse – there is a dire shortage of trained MRI techs (1 for every 20 scanners[iii]) and COVID worsened the imbalance between healthcare professionals and patients needing treatment.

Using One Click MRI is straightforward and intuitive, and as a result ultimately the work of technologists will become simpler and streamlined. That said, any time there is a change in workflow – even one that creates dramatic improvements in efficiency and productivity – a period of adjustment and adaptation is necessary. Once learned, One Click MRI is intended to automate an exam, eliminating hundreds of mouse clicks (representing intricate manual manipulations). A recent study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital showed that technologist (voluntary) adoption of One Click MRI for relevant cardiac scans increased from 13% to 55% over a period of 6 months.

How do you plan to take your product to the rural population?

In addition to simplifying clinical workflows and shortening scan times, One Click MRI allows technologists, wherever available, to conduct a patient scan at a remote hospital, so long as that facility has an MRI scanner. This serves to expand the geographic reach of CMR and ensures that patients in isolated, rural areas of the country, where the shortage of MRI technicians is even more pronounced, can still receive an exam.

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What’s next at Vista.ai? Where would the automated MRI industry head with AI and analytics capabilities?

Our goal is to automate the entire MR suite, regardless of anatomy or indication. It is the true industrialization of the scanning process, with minimal variability, state of the art image quality, and shortest time in the machine. Once realized, we will deliver on our true vision, bringing MRI for all, regardless of where patients live or how much money they have.

Thank you, Itamar! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

Itamar Kandel is an experienced health tech executive with a track record of success in bringing innovative technologies to commercial success. As the CEO of Vista.ai, Itamar pivoted the company to focus on the clinical MRI markets, closed deals with luminary hospitals such as Stanford Health Care and Cleveland Clinic, raised millions of dollars from institutional investors, and led the company’s strategic alliances with the world’s largest MRI manufacturers.

As TigerConnect’s President and Chief Strategy Officer, Itamar launched a new Platform-as-a-Service offering, signing up customers like Salesforce Health Cloud and Amgen, and built the Post Sales department of the company that significantly increased product activation and engagement, while reducing churn.

Previously at Symantec, Itamar built the healthcare practice by forging strategic alliances around PACS medical imaging solutions with the likes of McKesson, Cerner, GE Healthcare, Box, and Fuji.

Vista.ai Logo

Vista.ai is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to offer clinicians an easy, cost-effective and less stressful way to conduct MRI studies. The company’s FDA 510(k) cleared One Click MRI™ software-only solution automates and dramatically simplifies a CMR exam, enabling a hospital to obtain greater scanner throughput or get a CMR program off the ground cost-effectively. One Click MRI is available for use on Siemens Healthineers and GE Healthcare MRI scanners. Vista.ai is funded by Khosla Ventures, J-Ventures and the National Institute of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

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