“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” -Rob Siltanen
Thursday, April 4, 2019 marked a very exciting day for the Whiterabbit team as we launched the first Real Time Radiology Program. The program uses artificial intelligence (AI) to triage high priority mammogram screens for radiologists who read them in real time and provide results to consumers in under 15 minutes. Any subsequent follow-ups, if required, are scheduled on the same day to reduce the woman’s wait time from weeks to just 48 hours.
On Friday, April 5, Amanda, whose name was changed for privacy purposes, came in for her first screening mammogram. Her doctor had encouraged her to get screened for more than three years, but she is a busy working mother with a four-year-old so the suggestion was simply not top of mind.
The 43-year-old mom from San Mateo beamed as she chit-chatted during check-in. When she learned about the Real Time Radiology Program, she was thrilled to participate.
After one minute of completing the mammogram, the highly experienced and caring technologist at Peninsula Diagnostic Imaging received a notification from our software stating, “AI has flagged Amanda for further imaging.”
The cross-disciplinary teams immediately banded together to ensure Amanda received state-of-the-art care. Images were forwarded to the radiologist, who read and confirmed that there was something suspicious in Amanda’s mammogram and she was referred for diagnostic imaging. Simultaneously, the billing department received a notification to provide Amanda with an estimate for the diagnostic exam. Within 10 minutes, a patient liaison came to her assistance and explained what had happened and next steps.
Amanda’s beaming eyes became stone cold followed by tears, many tears, after receiving the news. They were cast with fear. She thinks of her daughter in that moment, sharing, “My daughter was a miracle baby.” Amanda and her husband had tried many years to have a child and she was finally able to at age 39.
My team felt a sea of emotions witnessing this. While we were energized that our software was working, we also saw the impact on an individual learning that she was potentially carrying cancer. For the first time we recognized we were not just developing software, or creating efficient systems, or changing workflows; we were going to touch real people’s lives. One of whom was now sitting in front of us sobbing and scared.
The patient liaison swiftly scheduled Amanda’s diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound the same day to avoid making her agonize for the entire weekend in uncertainty. Amanda said, “If I had to wait for the whole weekend, I would die of anxiety.”
In the lobby, she called her husband, best friend, manager, and mother-in-law’s caretaker to make arrangements for the afternoon in her absence. Amanda is a giving woman, solely focused on making sure everyone in her family was taken care of despite her own circumstance. Watching her, I realized women juggle many things in our lives. We are constantly planning and prioritizing in order to balance motherhood, care-taking, and our career. It is usually our health that falls lowest on the priority list.
Amanda completed her additional exams and was assured by our radiologist that her findings were benign and that she does not have cancer. As she came out to the waiting area, she gave me a tight hug that only childhood friends who haven’t seen each other in years would give! She said, “I will never forget this day. If you all did not take care of me today, I would not have been able to survive the weekend. God bless your software and your team. Thank you for understanding me.” When she left, her eyes were smiling again.
On average, the mammography process can take up to eight weeks in the United States. Even at Peninsula Diagnostic Imaging, it would have taken around two weeks without real-time radiology. Our work is revolutionizing mammography. We are bringing innovation in breast imaging to a new level. Whiterabbit’s goal is to eliminate the burden of planning for mammograms and waiting for results to improve women’s lives. We want to anticipate their needs and create friction-less processes so they can return to their lives with peace of mind.
As Amanda walked out of the clinic, I realized that we may not be able to have a happy ending to every story. Inevitably, we will find cancer. It will be horrible and heartbreaking. That is why we are working to provide high quality and convenient care. We are working to eliminate the painful anxiety and anticipation of waiting for results. We are making every woman feel like she is our highest priority. We are changing health care. We are the crazies who are changing the world by saving lives…one patient at a time.
-Arpita Tiwari, User Experience Researcher