India in early stages of precision medicine deployment: GE Healthcare

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The Covid pandemic has triggered a major digital transformation in the Indian healthcare sector over the past two years. It not only exposed the inadequacies of the country’s healthcare system, but also opened up new possibilities for digital intervention in healthcare, especially remote patient monitoring. India’s healthcare sector is expected to reach $372 billion by 2022, according to a recent report by Invest India. The hospital industry, which accounts for 80% of India’s healthcare industry, is expected to grow to $132.84 billion by FY22 from $61.79 billion in FY2017 , with a CAGR of 16-17%.

IANS spoke to Girish Raghavan, Vice President, Software Engineering, GE Healthcare South Asia, on the emerging need for innovative technologies and diagnostic solutions in the fields of cardiology, oncology, genomics and telemonitoring of patients.

Excerpts from the interview below:

While the Covid pandemic has exposed India’s fragile healthcare infrastructure, a silver lining is that it has accelerated the digital transformation journeys of many industries, including healthcare. What have been the key strategic pillars on which you have built your digital strategy over the past two years?

The pandemic has forced us to rethink healthcare delivery models. Before we knew it, virtual and remote patient monitoring systems became the global standards for improving healthcare outcomes.

The next important step was to orchestrate this transformation. This is where transforming healthcare systems into one-stop data command centers with real-time decision support tools has become essential.

We introduced new technologies that helped clinicians diagnose earlier, better, and faster using devices that leverage artificial intelligence (AI). The idea was to ensure that healthcare providers could get a more accurate diagnosis. We’ve also seen increased adoption of virtual assistants during the pandemic.

The most important chapter in the history of digital transformation is that of data aggregation. The pandemic has taught us the value of correlating medical history with data analysis to join the dots.

The manifestation of diseases has changed. Whether it’s a sore throat, gastritis or a headache, the trigger for a more serious illness can be anything. Therefore, integrating data is so important for precision care, better patient outcomes, and increased access to healthcare.

How have you influenced the pace of digital innovation in the Indian healthcare landscape?

We understand and recognize the emerging need for innovative technologies and diagnostic solutions in the areas of cardiology, oncology, genomics and remote patient monitoring. Over the years, we have collaborated with scientists, engineers and innovators to develop high-tech, integrative solutions that assimilate data from disparate sources and apply advanced algorithms to generate clinical, operational and financial insights.

When we launched GE Healthcare’s India Edison Accelerator, the goal was to nurture the startup ecosystem and improve patient outcomes. We harness the intelligence of the startup ecosystem to solve some of the toughest challenges in healthcare.

The program mentored three cohorts of 17 startups and nurtured a dynamic and synergistic ecosystem – leveraging GE’s tools and solutions to co-develop and deliver cutting-edge solutions.

In Cohort 3, we are working with six companies to help them develop their healthcare solutions. These companies will spend six months with healthcare industry experts inside and outside of GE.

By collaborating with students and communities with hackathons like GE Healthcare’s Precision Health Challenge 2022, we encourage students and hackathon enthusiasts to build the future of innovative healthcare.

Pushing the boundaries of precision care, we also launched the Healthcare Innovation Lab with/at IISc to help bring unique digital solutions to market, which can be integrated with our Edison platform and smart devices to solve some of the problems real health challenges that clinicians face.

The lab uses deep learning technology, artificial intelligence and future-ready digital interfaces powered by GE Healthcare to deliver sophisticated diagnostic and medical image reconstruction techniques.

Data is at the heart of predictive health in precision medicine. How do you ensure that the quality of the data used in your AI and ML models is optimal?

As part of GE’s quality systems and processes, we have defined a broad set of AI standards under which our data scientists operate. As part of this process, data diversity is evaluated at each stage of the product development process.

We have AI playbooks in place that guide the team through every step of this process. We also have data science experts who help with reviews, mentorship, and sign-offs as teams go through the development process.

Where is India in terms of precision medicine adoption? Do you see any challenges in raising awareness for its widespread adoption?

India in the early stages of precision medicine deployment. The first steps we take in health care are to provide access to the masses at affordable rates. The understanding of precision medicine must expand beyond its general definition, as it includes everything from unique targeted medical products to diagnosing/treating patient-specific conditions, leveraging AI.

As we delve deeper into the digital health mission and build the data repositories, we will understand the profile and arrive at differential diagnosis, a step in Precision Dx. Therefore, as results are recorded, we can use data evidence to define Precision Rx (Therapy). Obviously, there are research studies and trials going on, but the translation is ongoing.

What has cloud technology enabled you to do better?
What matters to us at GE Healthcare was to evolve the digital world of machines to work in tandem with the logical world of software to improve patient outcomes. In a larger scheme, we wanted to create predictive, reactive and connected solutions. That’s what AWS allowed us to do. AWS has accelerated the speed of infrastructure scaling for R&D and production. The team also ensured that compute, storage, database, and network services are readily available for integration and scalability. All of this has been done, while ensuring the highest level of security.

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