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There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare had a very successful year. Back in October, the FDA added 178 AI-enabled devices to its list of 500+ AI technologies that are approved for medical use. Topping the list for most approved devices were two massive players in the healthcare technology space: GE Healthcare, with 42 authorized AI devices, and Siemens, with 29.
Together, the two companies accounted for nearly 40% of the new devices that made the list.
However, despite the leaps and bounds made in the field thanks to these two giants, a recent survey from medical intelligence company Bluesight found that regardless of actual advancements made, around 50% of U.S. adults say they have not seen or experienced improvements in their own care as a result of medical AI advancements.
Why is that? And, when will consumers start to reap the benefits?
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They already are, but may not realize it since many tools are used by clinicians behind the scenes in radiology and imaging, explained Peter Shen, head of digital health at Siemens Healthineers North America. But increasing personalized medical care by using AI tools is something Siemens is continuing to refine and prioritize.
“Our strategy for AI goes beyond imaging and pattern recognition,” Shen said. “The informed diagnostics we derive from AI allow us to design better ways to take care of patients. For us, it is about more than efficiency and more than just decision-making. We want to start to drive personalized medicine toward the patients themselves and create accessibility in medical care.”
Behind the curtain and beyond the hype
The rapid improvements in AI technology are largely aimed at making healthcare more accessible to the patients it serves by eventually lowering costs, accelerating processes and providing even more accurate, personalized care. The benefits continue to evolve with each iteration of AI-enabled medical technology, and many of these advancements are also being used to assist medical professionals behind the scenes.
Radiology and medical imaging continues to be the fastest growing sector of AI-medical advancements, making up more than 85% of the FDA’s total list of 521 devices. Experts from both GE and Siemens say to anticipate further growth in this area — particularly with the potential it holds to change healthcare outcomes and diagnoses for patients.
For example, Vara AI, an AI-powered mammography screening platform, was able to detect roughly 40% of all cancers in clinical trials that were initially missed by radiologists.
This is something patients may not notice being used, but certainly can make an impact on their diagnoses and treatment outcomes.
“AI is moving past the hype cycle and becoming mainstream, increasing access to applications that use AI,” said Vignesh Shetty, SVP and general manager of Edison AI and platform at GE Healthcare. “As a result, the face of radiology, imaging and healthcare is changing and AI is becoming one of its distinguishing features.” When it comes to AI, he added, “It is no longer a fear of whether AI will replace healthcare professionals, it is more a matter of healthcare professionals who use AI differentiating themselves with those who do not.”
Supporting patients with AI in 2023
Interestingly, Bluesight’s research found that although many patients reported not seeing or experiencing technology advancements directly in their medical care, 84% of patients responded either neurally or positively on a scale of 1-5 to the statement, “I think that technology is making healthcare more accessible.”
This could signal room to improve education and dialogue around AI’s use in healthcare to build trust — something Bluesight’s research also found that is lacking. At the same time, AI’s personalization capabilities may be able to aid with that trust, allowing patients to feel more seen, heard and supported as well.
“AI technology has the potential to improve the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnoses, which could help doctors provide better care for their patients,” Shetty said. “In addition, AI-powered tools can help to reduce the amount of time and effort that doctors and other healthcare professionals need to spend on routine tasks, which could free up more time for them to see patients.”
As GE heads into 2023, the company is largely focused on patient support. Its solutions include the Edison platform for improving efficiency for patient processes; the Critical Care Suite 2.0, which automates high-risk procedures; and its platform Mural, which allows clinicians to access the status of ICU patients to provide care and reduce the time to intervention.
“What customers really value is the reduction in uncertainty, whether it be in healthcare or in ridesharing or another industry,” Shetty said. “Now imagine 20 times improvement in the patient and provider experience using intelligent scheduling or reduced MR scan and reporting times. That is the transformation GE Healthcare is after.”
As for Siemens, Shen said in 2023 the company plans to double-down its focus on using its AI algorithms and technologies to improve pattern recognition and train it on large amounts of clinical data and help derive better outcomes for patients.
“Rather than using AI in one clinical space like radiology, we can train it to look at multiple clinical spaces like data from images and also data from lab results or blood work, or even pathology slides from a biopsy,” Shen explained. “If we feed it all into our AI systems and train the AI to find correlations between all of these clinical pieces of data, that will help clinicians make stronger, more informed diagnostic and treatment decisions about their patients.”
This type of work with AI technology can also be used to model patient anatomy and eventually lead to the development of anatomically correct, personalized digital twins for patient care to perhaps test out the effectiveness of certain therapies in very specific digital twin simulations, before trying it out on the patient themselves, Shen said.
These advancements likely won’t slow down anytime soon and are likely to become technologies that patients interface with more and benefit from further in healthcare. Looking ahead, AI solutions in healthcare are projected to skyrocket, making the market grow to be worth $188 billion by 2030 according to Statista.
While focusing on growth, Siemens and GE Healthcare both ultimately plan to continue the prioritization of driving outcomes that better serve patients.
“Driving outcomes will improve the future of AI and leverage info to help medical professionals make more informed diagnostic decisions and create personalized therapeutic treatments for patients,” Shen said.
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