GE HealthCare acquires Caption Health, energizing DCVC’s thesis around AI in medicine

By Alan Cohen 02.09.23

Today, recently independent GE HealthCare (Nasdaq: GEHC) announced that it is acquiring DCVC portfolio company Caption Health, whose AI-driven software allows ultrasound echocardiograms to be delivered by non-specialists in any setting, greatly increasing the potential for early detection of disease.

Caption Health was the first company ever to receive FDA approval for an AI-guided medical imaging acquisition system—and is now the first company acquired by GE HealthCare. Caption is an exemplary DCVC company, applying AI to democratize the early detection of heart disease by lowering the cost and complexity of delivering preventative care.

GE HealthCare is a market colossus with over a hundred-year history in a range of medical diagnostic imaging (including X-ray, MRI, ultrasound, mammography, and many others). We are excited to see that it chose to push its platform into the future by making this AI-focused investment its first acquisition.

Caption’s guidance-assisted ultrasound navigation is as simple as the directions sent to guide an Uber driver: the person capturing the heart scan follows the directional arrows issued by the software and does not need the training of an ultrasound tech, nurse, or doctor. Thousands of Caption scans have already been delivered by medical and nursing assistants as well as military personnel.

One of Caption’s singular inventions was the ability to accurately deliver an AI-guided “Ejection Fraction,” what the company calls AUTOEF. The ejection fraction measures the effectiveness of the heart in delivering oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Less than 40 denotes distress; above 52 is normal to optimal. Not only does the navigation software tell the operator where to move the wand, the software constantly takes images until it has enough data to deliver the Ejection Fraction analysis as well as a range of images of the heart for the cardiologist.

Caption initially focused in on cardiology because heart disease is the leading cause of death. It can be treated with medication, diet, and exercise, providing patients with longer and more enriched lives—but only if it is found (and the sooner the better). And Caption has undertaken work in other areas, including lung disease. Expect to see this exceptional technology cover a range of medical diagnoses.

All companies are about people. Caption was started by two AI visionaries: Kilian Koespell and Charles Cadieu. When CEO Steve Cashman joined the team almost two years ago, the company moved from offering an enhancement to current cardio technology (i.e., making a medical device) to becoming a portable tech-enabled health service pioneered by the company called Caption Care. This was a pivotal change: getting the business model for preventative care right. Industry legend Joe DeVivo joined Caption as independent Chairman last year to help round out its strategy and industry reach. We have been fortunate to have been on the journey with them.

And looking forward, DCVC is deeply invested in a range of new AI technologies to increase human enablement. We seek to radically expand the range and lower the cost curve of medical care in many endeavors of human health, including surgery and stroke treatments. Expect to hear more soon from our portfolio company Proprio, for instance, soon.

We congratulate the Caption team on this exciting day!

Alan Cohen is a Partner at DCVC.