Haruto Iwata, Managing Director, Fujifilm India points out to Viveka Roychowdhury that though the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted revenues and profitability, there is a huge change in the whole landscape of manufacturing and timelines. He illustrates how along with approvals given by Government, the pandemic has shown that we as a country can do much more in crisis situations, citing the ramp up in production of ventilators, RTPCR kits and ELISA systems. He indicates that planning is on to replicate this for MRI scanners and CT and X-ray tubes.
COVID-19 has also further accelerated digitalisation, and he narrates how Fujifilm India installed CR and DR systems in COVID-19 wards and provided tele radiology solutions to customers.
Iwata also expands on the increasing impact of AI and deep machine learning on radiology during these times, as well as how these technologies are enabling radiologists to take on more cases, diagnose better, take better and consistent images over time, thereby making their jobs easier and accurate, which in turn will accelerate the roadmap to recovery. He is confident that as the nation begins unlocking, they will weather the initial setbacks that the imaging industry faced due to the lockdowns
He also cautions that technology usage in a critical sector such as healthcare needs to be balanced with the price of inputs and the cost of outcomes. Companies have attained this balance and have provided a greater window of becoming relevant in the market.
And finally, as October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Iwata also reviews the company’s expanded collaborations with hospitals and NGOs towards early detection of breast cancer which can save lives as well as make treatment more affordable and accessible
How has Fujifilm India’s business been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
At Fujifilm, our business has been impacted in terms of revenues and profitability. However, we provided the best possible service support during the initial lockdown and installation of CR (computed radiography) and DR (digital radiography) in COVID-19 wards and application support to end-users.
Additionally, we have been organising various training programmes for employees and customers to enhance the skills and have invested time in developing our digital IT products coupled with AI so that we can provide tele radiology solutions to our customers.
At Fujifilm, our top priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees and communities. While it is still early to predict the quantum of impact at the moment, there is aftermath on the overall economy and consumption.
With the festive season in full swing, we are hopeful that recovery in demand will happen sooner as our consumers/customers spending power will increase.
We hope that the fury of COVID-19 would fade with time and new normal would appear with a better and more robust healthcare system.
To what extent were the imaging and diagnostic segments impacted and are they now seeing a recovery?
The effect of COVID-19 on the medical imaging industry continues to be seen, as hospitals and imaging centers continue to define this “new normal.” With patients shying away from coming to hospitals, elective surgeries have been reduced to a minimal level, the overall healthcare tourism has been affected to a great extent.
Tele-consultations have increased by 10X in metros and 2X to 3X in Tier-2 and 3 cities. Government of India is also planning with National Health Digital Mission implementation to provide universal healthcare coverage for all the citizens of our country.
Digitisation has been the need of the hour and COVID-19 has given further acceleration to this cause. The pandemic has also led to an increase in the use of smartphones and wearable imaging devices further leading to an increased opportunity for imaging patients, online and in healthcare facilities. And as the nation begins unlocking, we are confident of weathering the initial setbacks that the imaging industry faced due to the lockdowns.
With AI and deep machine learning having a maximum impact on radiology during these times, we have witnessed a surge in demand. Professionals are deploying these technologies to do more cases, diagnose better, take better and consistent images over time, thereby making the job of a radiologist easier and accurate, which in turn will accelerate our roadmap to recovery. Our focus is mainly on the wellness and immunity development of our people.
How important is India as a market for Fujifilm?
India is a key market for us and with over 80 years of experience, Fujifilm has been a pioneer in imaging technology and has constantly displayed an innovative line-up of products and solutions. Living up to our motto of Never Stop, we are committed to providing products and services that not only enhance image quality and workflow but also keep the patients well-being in mind by introducing the latest innovative technologies and solutions.
We have used our core technologies and developed a wide range of products under the six business domains. In the field of healthcare, Fujifilm is a major player in diagnostic equipment with a wide range of X-ray, mammography, endoscopes and medical IT software utilising the medical imaging technology. Fujifilm’s CR system has a 50 per cent share in the Indian market. Our customers have chosen us as the No-1 Choice in Full Field Digital Mammography (FFDM) – Amulet Innovality with more than 30 per cent market share. We are proud to have such a range of medical equipment that aids early detection of lung, stomach, colorectal, and breast cancer, thus saving lives. With more than 40,000 thousand systems installed in India, Fujifilm’s focus is on AI and IoT.
What are the transformations in the healthcare landscape post the coronavirus pandemic?
The production of ventilators was going down previously before COVID days and now more than 40000 ventilators have been manufactured in the past six months in India. Additionally, no test kits have been manufactured in 5 -6 months of time, Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (APMTZ) started manufacturing 5 lakh RTPCR kits /every day and Elisa Testing machines and MRI Scanners and CT and X-ray tubes are underway. There is a huge change in the whole landscape of manufacturing and their timelines along with approvals given by Government has shown that we as a country can do much more in crisis situations.
At Fujifilm, we believe that with Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly gaining ground in varying forms and degrees, the use of these innovations has begun to appear in a wide spectrum of technologies, from the phones we use to communicate to the supply chains that bring goods to market. It is modifying the way we interact, consume information, and obtain goods and services. Healthcare is no exception to this new disruption.
In India, the last five years have seen consumer-facing ‘health tech’ being talked about and embraced by investors, government and gradually by the public. Among educated consumers in urban areas, technology is largely gaining traction through online health service aggregators, telemedicine, e-commerce for home delivery of pharmaceuticals, and with a few fitness apps. Existing methods are also being used to reinvent healthcare delivery in the form of online consults or chat-based basic healthcare service apps, especially during these unprecedented times.
What are the other challenges faced by the imaging/diagnostic industry, beyond the pandemic in the terms of the policy landscape, pricing pressures, the Make in India policy, etc.?
The pandemic has been an eye-opener on understanding the importance of developing a sound health infrastructure in India, which is still in the developing stage. Aside from this, the shortage of healthcare practitioners is another critical concern. We feel innovation is an important consideration for any strong value proposition, especially in healthcare. And the government is encouraging and supporting companies to tap the enormous opportunities in the healthcare landscape.
There are a number of companies that are solving various problems that Indian healthcare has been grappling with. Apps, telehealth platforms have ensured that quality doctors are available to people of tier 2 and 3 cities too now by multiplying their presence. Similarly, e-pharmacy, EHR platforms and home health startups are also doing some notable work.
However, technology usage in a critical sector such as healthcare needs to be balanced with the price of inputs and the cost of outcomes. Companies have attained this balance and have provided a greater window of becoming relevant in the market.
What are the new technologies and innovations focused on improving patient care?
At Fujifilm, we believe that AI and IoT solutions can lead to better care outcomes and improve the productivity and efficiency of care delivery. Also, improve the day-to-day life of healthcare practitioners, letting them spend more time looking after patients and in so doing, raise staff morale and improve retention. It can even offer life-saving treatments to markets faster.
With the increased use of AI & IoT in health care, it will certainly influence the types of new entrants into the healthcare industry as well as influence how providers, clinicians, and other staff will work in the future.
Henceforth, we can say that from patient, self-service to chatbots, computer-aided detection (CAD) systems for diagnosis, and image data analysis to identify candidate molecules in drug discovery, AI, IoT and other technologies are already at work. They are swiftly helping in increasing convenience and efficiency, reducing costs and errors, and generally making it easier for more patients to receive the health care they need. While each technology can contribute significant value alone, the larger potential lies in the synergies generated by using them together across the entire patient journey, from diagnosis to treatment, to ongoing health maintenance.
With new disruptions in healthcare innovations, we will soon be in a position to realise the benefits of these technologies on health outcomes.
How can early detection of cancers and specifically breast cancer, improve outcomes and quality of life for patients?
Rising incidence of breast cancer is a cause of concern with mortality rates among women being higher globally. The chances of survival increases up to 90 per cent if breast cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. Delayed cancer screenings lead to detecting cancer at a much later stage, and definitely that leads to more aggressive disease, more lengthy treatment and a healthcare cost.
Most of the women experience psychosocial distress during the course of their breast cancer treatment. The level of distress varies from woman to woman and can vary for the individual patient over the course of diagnosis. Fortunately, factors such as early diagnosis and successful treatment have increased the life expectancy of patients with breast cancer. If the disease is detected promptly, it has been increasingly shown to improve patient health and improve survival and quality of life.
What could be the impact of early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer be on insurance players and governments, given that early treatment is generally less expensive?
While the costs of healthcare have become exorbitant over the years, the fact remains that medical care in India remains largely as an out-of-pocket expense. The costs associated with breast cancer treatment and follow-up care can be a financial strain for patients. Since breast cancer care is long term in nature, it also indicates towards recurring expenditure.
However, self-examination and early reporting has helped prevent the spread of disease and ensured early treatment. This has resulted in more number of survival rates. It has also been less expensive to treat and cure cancer patients. Early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer has threatened the viability of publicly funded universal health insurance systems.
How affordable and accessible are these in the context of economically less privileged patients in both rural and urban India?
Data suggests that breast cancer has become the most prevalent cancer in urban women in India and the second most common in rural women. The numbers are expected to rise drastically by 2030, due to increased urbanisation and changing lifestyles of women.
Fujifilm strives to provide Indian consumers with affordable technology healthcare solutions that can help provide relief to the framework in the immediate future. These innovations have saved millions of lives with the early detections of the disease, Fujifilm is offering its technological prowess to help hospitals perform more effectively and efficiently. Apart from these steps, we have been continuously initiating health check-ups across cities in India, especially in remote areas and associations with hospitals to drive awareness around early detection of breast cancer. Our aim is to help women in rural India with early detection and provide free or low-cost services.
How are global conglomerates like Fujifilm partnering with local governments and NGOs etc. to make early and affordable detection more accessible to patients in India?
Keeping in mind the growing challenges that a hospital faces daily on managing the radiology imaging services, we have been associating with various medical hospitals to offer them technologies and services across India. In 2019, we collaborated with Indian Academy of CT- Guided Intervention (IACTI) and Breast Imaging Society of India (BISI) and organised an awareness programme on ‘Breast & Gynaecology Imaging. Associated with Max Healthcare hospital in Delhi to train doctors in advance diagnostics and spread awareness about early detection of breast cancer.
Over the years, we have associated with various NGOs and organisations for the betterment of the society at large. One such example of it being, Indian Cancer Society, we collaborated with the NGO to communicate that early detection of breast cancer can save lives. Under the association, 18 medical camps were conducted to generate awareness about breast cancer and breast self-examination for women of Delhi and NCR who are residing in slums and cannot afford quality treatment. Further, with health becoming a priority in these unprecedented times, we have strengthened our responsibilities and focus in our healthcare business by conducting educational workshops for doctors and users of our medical solutions.
At Fujifilm, it is our continuous endeavor to provide affordable technology healthcare solutions that can help provide relief to our consumers. Additionally, we are associated with Yashoda Hospital Ghaziabad and Subharti Medical College Meerut for spreading knowledge on End –TB Programme and tied up with Max Healthcare, IGMC Shimla, Medical College Aurangabad and SRMC Chennai to spread the education and benefits of early detection of breast cancer.
What should be the immediate focus areas in the Indian healthcare system for the government in your opinion? And for Fujifilm India?
National Digital Health Mission is the biggest reform where our healthcare sector is going to undertake and we would start seeing the results in next six months of time. This will help us provide proper data based analysis i.e. what is required and where. With this, we will be able to track the Health records and give better treatment at affordable costs to our citizens. Development of Wellness Centers -150,000 across the country is going to be most important step in this direction.
We have to develop a robust healthcare system with focus on wellness, Fit India and Make in India programmes to boost the health and we have to couple Yoga and Meditation with our education system to bring out innovations.