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The objective of GE Healthcare Europe, as set out by CEO Jean-Michel Malbrancq, is to improve the system of healthcare by marrying technology and high value-added services. A costly aim, but one that’s justified by the advances it will lead to.
Leaders League. Artificial intelligence has strong potential when it comes to diagnosis and medical imaging. How well is GE placed to take advantage of it?
Jean-Michel Malbrancq. It’s an exciting development. AI helps medical professionals to read the human body, establish a diagnosis and make decisions. It is at the heart of our R&D strategy. At our European headquarters in Buc, just outside Paris, two hundred software engineers are working on projects related to AI. With machine learning, we are edging closer to a form of artificial intelligence. It amounts to the machines themselves self-learning by experience. We can to teach a machine to recognize cancer. We are not talking about machines substituting doctors when it comes to decision making, but a quote-unquote ‘intelligent’ machine that’s able to store thousands of pieces of data that will allow us to make faster, more precise diagnoses and therefore treat more cases in a shorter period of time. It’s a very interesting development for the future of healthcare whose success is going to depend on our ability to marry the digital with the industrial, software with hardware. The first generation of algorithms will concern principally assisted decision making, but the ability to diagnose is the ultimate goal. The underlying benefit is a reduction in the time it takes to make decisions and so a reduction the time it takes to begin treatment.
Will the performance of these devices you mention allow medical professionals to improve the quality of examinations and help them retain patients as customers?
Absolutely. Our objective is to give our clients solutions tailored to their needs. The results must be tangible and measurable: clinical excellence yes, but also when it comes to operational efficiency and the safety of patients. Healthcare systems are having to cope with rising challenges: longer lifespans, the development of chronic illnesses, financing shortages etc. The great strength of GE Healthcare resides in its expertise and ability to innovate, essential qualities in a world that’s in perpetual evolution. We are investing a billion euros annually in R&D, of which a third goes to Europe. But the product is not the be all and end all. We have been delivering our clients approaches to training and advice that are allowing them to rethink the entire patient pathway.
With medical equipment getting ever more sophisticated and, therefore, expensive don’t you fear the rise of a two-speed healthcare system based on the means of a medical facility?
Healthcare systems are having to cope with constraints, in particular budgetary, that are getting tighter and tighter. It’s the case in France, but it’s also true everywhere in Europe. Healthcare systems have to do more with less. The imperative for manufacturers is not just to deliver the technology, but also to deliver results, be they clinical, operational or linked to patient satisfaction, and at the same time keep a lid on costs. But technological innovation is not just synonymous with additional costs. It allows savings to be made by detecting a condition at an early stage or evaluating the effectiveness of a treatment so that adjustments can be made. Developments in the modality of hybrid imaging devices, such as PET-CT scanners, which combine nuclear medicine with a traditional scanner, allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of a course of chemotherapy in two cycles of treatment instead of five. Interventional radiology is another example: historically, classical surgery has involved a degree or risk, with a long recovery period in hospital and a rehabilitation of several months. Today, mini-invasive surgery considerably reduces the time a patent spends in hospital and in rehabilitation.
Translated from French by Simon McGeady
Find more analysis articles & interviews in our 2017 Innovation, Technology & IP Report.