“Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the to drive real breakthroughs across the care continuum”
At the outset of the crisis, GE Healthcare ramped up production of critical spare parts for the ventilators, X-ray machines and MR scanners that would be so important in treating COVID-19 patients. “Hospitals” magazine recently interviewed Mr. Elie Chaillot, President & CEO, Services, Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA), at GE Healthcare, about the projects undertaken by GE Healthcare during the pandemic.
What developments have been achieved through the use of AI and analytics in the healthcare sector?
Healthcare has never been more accessible, intelligent or dynamic. Health systems, however, face increasing pressures – with the growth and aging of global populations, rising levels of chronic disease coupled with escalating costs, growing complexity and inadequate infrastructure – forcing a fundamental rethinking of every aspect of healthcare. The increased use of advanced data analytics, connected devices, genomics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have the potential to drive real breakthroughs in patient outcomes and operational efficiencies across the care continuum. Health systems have never been better at generating data – but most goes unused. With the right technologies, we now have the ability to unlock this data and unleash intelligence across the healthcare industry.
We are seeing health systems using AI and analytics to gain access to real-time data that illustrates hospital and resource capacity, and this will only become more central to how health systems operate. Our Command Center technology – essentially an AI toolkit to improve outcomes and efficiency in hospital operations – is used by more than 200 hospitals around the world. AI is also built directly onto medical devices. Critical care suite, for example, was the first FDA-cleared AI algorithms embedded on mobile X-ray devices to prioritize pneumothorax. There are also AI applications like Thoracic Care Suite, a suite of AI apps to help identify chest X-ray abnormalities, including pneumonia caused by COVID-19 and tuberculosis.
The possibilities are endless: Our customers are also asking us to work with them to make their machines more productive and help them build tools to interface with patients using innovative technology. But the technology must be simple; clinicians need it to be intuitive, embedded in their existing workflows and easy to use.
How has the pandemic shifted the focus of healthcare systems going forward?
COVID-19 continues to be the primary focus of health systems globally, and with the pandemic I believe we have seen a glimpse of the future. We’ve learned a lot in the past few year about both the disease and the potential consequences of holding off on treatment of pre-existing conditions. As we see health systems start to recover, patients still have some fear of going back into the hospital for care. We are helping our customers look at recovery in a way that is holistic and balanced between managing new COVID-19 cases but also ensures patients understand how new policies will protect them and will limit transmission. Managing that recovery means health systems need better line of sight to all available resources, including staff. And that’s only possible through greater access to data.
How do we build a sustainable intelligence-based healthcare system?
Building the intelligence-based health system requires a complete modernization of the current infrastructure to enable virtual hospitals, enable greater access to care and ultimately lower the cost of care delivery. Moreover, advances in medical imaging constantly increase our knowledge of diseases and their treatments, creating a surge in the amount of data generated. For each patient to benefit from the promises of personalized medicine, new AI-based tools are needed to aggregate, standardize, and make sense of this data quickly.
We know that by changing the underlying technology infrastructure, we can deploy applications that will make a huge difference in the lives of both clinicians and patients. No one company can solve this alone, which is why we are bringing together the ecosystem, leveraging the strengths of clinicians, technology & academic partners, and others to advance healthcare together. Just over a month ago in Turkey, we finalized an agreement with TECHNOPOL-based CUREA, led by Chairman of Radiology in Istanbul Province, Prof. Dr. Muammer Hakkı Karakaş, Turkey’s first strategic collaboration to accelerate AI development in medical imaging. The collaboration will see Prof. Karakas and his team of distinguished radiologists, data scientists and software developers use GE Healthcare’s Edison Health Services to develop AI-based applications focused on the detection, categorization, and severity grading of COVID-19 to diagnose and treat patients, as well as auto-detection and categorization of breast lesions through contrast-enhanced spectral mammography (CESM).
This is an exciting collaboration that will gradually give Turkish start-ups, researchers and radiologists the opportunity to create AI applications in medical imaging that can dramatically enhance treatment and diagnosis of disease in Turkey and beyond. It is also a significant step forward in establishing an ecosystem for AI development in healthcare for Turkey and the whole region, thanks to the leadership and vision of Prof. Dr. Karakas and his team.
Could you please tell us about the projects undertaken by GE Healthcare during the pandemic?
At the outset of the crisis, GE Healthcare ramped up production of critical spare parts for the ventilators, x-ray machines and MR scanners that would be so important in treating COVID-19 patients. These were housed at GE Healthcare’s three regional supply centers in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allowing faster support for hospitals across the region.
We also innovated quickly. Our CT-in-a-Box solution, a modular machine that captures the same robust imagery of traditional CT scanner, was installed at many institutions around the world—including Turkey, the UAE, and Kuwait in this region.
Another step GE Healthcare took to increase the regional supply of ventilators is to work with its customers to identify and return their old, unused or non-working ventilators to be repaired at our Repair Centers in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. While the number of refurbished ventilators by no means meets demand, every ventilator we’re able to put back in use means another patient can be treated.
When governments around the region took decisive action to commission emergency field hospitals, we quickly mobilized to deliver equipment. The task before us was to manufacture, ship, deliver and commission a range of equipment, including MRI’s, CT’s, and patient monitors, all during a time where most planes around the world were grounded because of the pandemic. Through collaboration with our partners and suppliers, and the support of governments who helped us prioritize custom clearance, we were able to do it.
It has been nearly one year since your appointment to lead Services for GE Healthcare in EMEA. What are the services at GE Healthcare, and how do they fit in the context of healthcare delivery?
I have always believed that at our core, we are a services company. Our customers are our north star and services are integral to their experience with us.
Service has come a long way from the traditional break-fix model. The ongoing pandemic has put an enormous strain – both financial and operational – on healthcare systems across the world, intensifying a trend that was already being felt pre-pandemic by both private medical systems and health ministries. As a result, across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and indeed the world, healthcare providers have been looking for opportunities to better manage costs and improve care to patients. This includes both private healthcare systems looking to deliver returns to shareholders and ministries of health looking to contain rising healthcare spending and improve patient outcomes.
Our customers manage thousands of assets—all types of healthcare equipment, big and small—complexity that creates additional costs required to stay on top of each piece of equipment’s performance, maintenance, repair status, and location. So we work with our partners to introduce Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) programs, which provide a unified, simplified and cost-effective tool to address the equipment challenge.
In other words, we provide a total asset management solution with multi-vendor coverage and a single point of contact for all equipment issues for healthcare providers, taking on responsibility for managing all equipment. Productivity is the name of the game and GE has been innovating and leading this charge.