What technological advancements are going to influence the radiology sector in future? How are they going to impact the way radiology is pursued as a profession? Will they fulfill the complicated medical needs of patients in a country like India? These were some of the pertinent questions which were addressed and discussed in a panel discussion during Express Healthcare’s Radiology and Imaging Conclave.
The panel, moderated by Dr Bhavin Jankharia, Chief Radiologist, Picture This by Jankharia, comprised of leading radiologists and heads of leading medical technology manufacturers: Uday Patil, Head of Radiology, Aster DM Healthcare; Minelli Dennis, Marketing and Communications Manager, Carestream, Sushant Kinra, MD, Carestream Health India; Chandrashekhar Sibal, EVP and Head Medical Division, Fujifilm India; Anupam Agarwal, MD Consort and India Representative, Neusoft Medical; Neeraja Sharma, Head Marketing, Philips Healthcare and Ritu Kapoor, Marketing Manager, Fujifilm.
The discussion started with the question, “What exciting innovations can be emancipated for the industry in the upcoming five years, especially from the technology point of view?” The question was also extended to the company representatives and they were asked to speak about their own plans for the next five years. “We are looking to transform ourselves as a solutions providing company. Early detection is the key to success- this is what we believe. We are going to do a lot of screening programmes and breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and TB are the four core areas that we are focussing on. Chiefly, we are on the path of becoming an IT company with complete focus on Artificial Intelligence which can provide answers to radiologists and the public at large,” explained Sibal.
On Philips’ strategy for the next five years, Sharma stated, “Not only are we focussing on solutions where diagnosis, patient-centric care is emphasised upon, but also on solutions where we partner with customers and help them grow- we will focus on what kind of infrastructure they need, etc. Patient experience will always remain our core focus, of course.”
The discussion then shifted its focus to AI. Anticipating a huge amount of automation for regular tasks in radiology, Dr Patil talked about how AI is going to empower doctors to do better diagnosis, cut down on minor errors. “It will help radiologists in spending more time on activities that provide value and guide outcomes,” he said. Next, focus being more on the software part of upcoming technology than on hardware, Kinra said, “The potential disruption in the healthcare sector is going to be more in the terms of workflow, automation, using AI, gaining deep learning, etc. Incremental improvements is what we are going away from. I believe that is what the need of the hour is. The focus will be on effective utilisation of an asset.” He further opined that India is going to be a segmented market when it comes to these innovations and there is an opportunity to ‘mirror’ the changes that are happening in the west.
During the course of the discussion, Agrawal announced that Neusoft will be rolling out a newly developed system of 16 slides in the beginning of 2020. The new system, he added, has been designed specifically for the new market and will cost less than one crore rupees. The panel then discussed that should innovation mean better accessibility of radiology services for an average Indian patient, and on this Viveka Roychowdhary, Editor, Express Healthcare pointed out that the government, through various schemes, is dedicated to move from high quality- low volume model to the reverse and so equipment makers will have to innovate with this in mind. She also stressed on the need for technical innovations to be seen as a long term investment. Agreeing, Dr Patil stated that the next big thing that could happen in the imaging is that we will have access to the technology that we posses now, at a fraction of a price.
The panellists also discussed government’s Make In India’s initiative and how imaging companies are adopting to it, the potential of public private partnership in the sector to boost innovation and what its implementation can be.
The discussion then concluded as the panellists reached consensus on the fact that the biggest purpose of innovation is to make healthcare more affordable to the public at large- an MRI can now be done at significantly reduced costs than what it used to cost a decade before, and that is the result of innovation. Any innovation in the area of artificial intelligence will serve this purpose only.
- Early detection is the key to success, therefore most innovations in this field will focus on preventive screening.
- Less hardware and more software focus products will be developed in future which will be backed by AI.
- Incremental improvements will be done to increase better efficiencies in imaging techniques.
- Hardware innovation has slowed down, it is the age of software enhancements.
- Potential disruption lies in the application of technologies such as AI, automation, etc., that enhances clinical decisions, applications and more.
- Innovations lie in democratisation of high end radiology services in future.