Grieve Lab - Charles Perkins Centre Sydney University
Case Study by Joe Cincotta - Operations and Technical Director, Grieve Lab
Grieve Lab is a research laboratory based at the Charles Perkins Centre Sydney University. We have two main streams of research: a brain program and a heart program.
The translational research we are undertaking as part of the heart program hopes to change the way clinical radiology works by using new MRI protocols and analysis methods to improve diagnosis and treatment decisions. Ultimately, our aim is for researchers and clinicians to use imaging to understand heart failure better and learn how to diagnose it early to prevent it.
As a key need to undertake this large-scale research, we rely on specialist cardiologists and radiologists who donate their time to analyse MRI scans, measuring different aspects of the heart. To maximise their time, we want to give them the opportunity to view as many cases as possible. So, when we approached The Missing Link, we were looking for an effective method of automation that would minimise repetitive manual tasks and speed up reporting times.
The Selection Process
I’d describe our introduction to The Missing Link as a very warm referral. Stuart Grieve, who runs our laboratory, has a personal friendship with The Missing Link’s owners and suggested we give them a call.
The Missing Link was great to work with. Before we engaged their services, we’d been using an automation tool that was too simplistic to meet our needs. Ironically, this meant that although our software was a high-end medical reporting application with AI capability, it was labour intensive to use – so the radiologists were unnecessarily performing very repetitive tasks.
We sat down with The Missing Link and told them what we were trying to achieve. We filmed one of the expert radiologists working through analysing MRI scans to determine the likelihood and incidence of cardiac failure so they could understand the steps that could be automated. We also gave them some examples of the issues we were having with the existing tool, including intermittent failures and software upgrades.
In response to our needs, The Missing Link recommended implementing fragments of Robotic Process Automation that would speed up reporting time. Following discussion, they had a proof of concept ready for us to review within a few days. The entire project, with implementation and training, was completed about a week later. Even though they were working with a medical research tool that they had never seen before and one that uses animated MRI, they just picked it up and ran with it.
In a normal clinical setting, there is enough time to get familiar with a patient (case) in a clinical setting, run their MRI through an artificial intelligence app, manually add information, analyse the scan independently and prepare a report. The problem with research is that we’re trying to do the same thing; however, rather than working with one case, we’re trying to get through 800, and we’re relying on cardiology radiologists to donate their time to do this.
So, whatever we can do to avoid unnecessary manual tasks and shorten the reporting time makes a huge difference, allowing us to scale our research questions and address big clinical problems.
The Missing Link has provided us with a framework to do this, and they’ve trained our development team to use and evolve it. Impressively, it’s simple to adapt in-house as needed, so we only need to go back to them for big pieces of work.
I’m not saying that what they’ve developed would necessarily work in a clinical setting; however, in our research environment, where we are working rapidly, it is enabling us to accelerate our research –this wouldn’t have been possible without them.
In doing this so easily, without any challenges along the way, The Missing Link took a substantial amount of stress out of my life - if every supplier did as much as they did, life would be awesome. Ultimately, they’ve made a significant difference to our research which we hope will benefit patient outcomes.