Creating advanced health-tech solutions to help healthcare startups

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India EdisonTM Accelerator – GE Healthcare’s first startup collaboration programme centred on the Edison platform – works with startups in India to develop solutions to tackle some of the toughest healthcare challenges, informs Nritya Ganesh, Director – Programme Management, and Programme Lead – India EdisonTM Accelerator, GE Healthcare, to Akanki Sharma, in an exclusive interaction

What is India EdisonTM Accelerator for GE Healthcare and its purpose? Tell us what all has it done since its inception till date?

India EdisonTM Accelerator is GE Healthcare’s first startup-collaboration programme. It allows startups to collaborate with GE Healthcare on areas of mutual interest to co-develop solutions that can then be jointly taken to market. The programme’s aim is to create advanced health-tech solutions that will help healthcare providers to deliver precision health across the care continuum, with better outcomes and experiences for their customers.

India EdisonTM Accelerator is the first startup collaboration programme centred on the Edison platform. It works with startups in India to develop solutions on the Edison platform to tackle some of the toughest healthcare challenges existing today. Edison is an intelligence offering used by GE Healthcare’s internal developers and strategic partners to develop new healthcare applications, services and AI algorithms. This programme marks a significant step in making the platform and its extensive catalogue of healthcare-specific developer services widely available to the start-up community.

Till date, we have concluded two cohorts with 11 advanced tech startups working in a variety of domains like radiology and advanced imaging, pathology, oncology, genomics, digital therapeutics and predictive maintenance. These startups continue to work with GE Healthcare towards joint commercialisation of their solutions.

How does it function and who are the beneficiaries?

The process for all the cohort programmes is well-structured. The applications received are screened through a multi-stage process and the shortlisted entries are evaluated based on the strategic alignment to GE Healthcare’s focus areas, the strength of the business idea/plan, maturity, the strength of the founding team, etc.

Once onboarded, the startups are assigned dedicated technical mentors who work with them to define goals for the cohort and also guide and monitor their progress towards this goal. Clinical and business mentors are brought in periodically for the start-ups to build capability in these areas as well.

The programme provides zero-equity cash-in-grant of $10,000 to each of the selected startups. In addition, they get access to mentorship, skill development programmes, commercial and regulatory guidance and data provision, as additional benefits. So, the startups benefit from our expertise and GE Healthcare benefits from them in terms of harnessing their energy and capability.

In what ways is it collaborating with health-tech start-ups, especially to meet the critical requirements thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you look at the focus areas for each cohort, you will see the focus primarily is on technology solutions aimed at streamlining healthcare delivery across verticals like advanced imaging and visualisation, precision diagnosis and treatment, computer-aided detection and diagnosis, point-of-care diagnostics, remote patient monitoring and virtual hospitals. These solution segments have a direct correlation with solving problems caused by COVID-19.

Specifically, some of the cohort-one startups – Predible Health, Deeptek and 5C Network – quickly pivoted their offering when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, to be able to analyse lung X-Ray and CT reports. This helped to bring down the turn-around time from days to a matter of hours allowing faster preliminary diagnoses and bringing patients under medical supervision faster.

What do you think was the toughest challenge for the healthcare sector before this pandemic, and how did the industry address it?

In addition to making quality healthcare affordable and accessible in remote, low-resource settings, one of the toughest challenge for the healthcare sector pre-pandemic has been in integrating digital technology with traditional clinical workflows. The pandemic has forced clinicians to rethink their approach to both COVID and non-COVID diseases due to the constraints placed by the unmanageable COVID caseloads, the necessity to monitor and treat patients remotely, etc. To that extent, the pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital tools and if the right infrastructure and connectivity can be made available in rural areas, the first problem of the last-mile care delivery could also be addressed to a large extent.

How are you putting your experience of over 20 years to use for this initiative? What exactly is your role here?

An the old saying goes, it’s wiser to spend your money on “experiences” rather than on “things,” as things are easily forgotten, but experiences live and you get to build on. Through one’s experiences, we build on the best practices and carve out promising new ones. This phenomenon also applies to one’s career as well. Hard work, belief, passion, sincerity to the job and a thirst for learning and knowing more is the secret recipe that has personally helped me. I have played various roles ranging from business leadership, programme management, strategic planning, process improvement, capability building and human resource, to initiatives involved with customers. It has given me a broad spectrum of skills and process to run initiatives like the GE Healthcare India EdisonTM Accelerator.

I currently lead GE Healthcare’s start-up collaboration programme – India EdisonTM Accelerator. Running this initiative involves multiple GE stakeholders and leaders, both local and global, who have come together to conceptualise and support this programme. From internal expertise, leadership, external mentors and external partners like NASSCOM, and consultants like Zinnov, it’s a passionate team coming forward to pull this initiative off the ground to ensure we bring in competent startups that can build their solutions using our Edison platform, resulting in mutual benefit to all stakeholders.

Name the start-ups that you are working with to implement this project. How are the solutions provided by these proving beneficial in clinical practices as well as for patients in general as well as with regards to COVID-19?

Cohort one: 5C Network, DeepTek, Orbo, Predible, and Synapsica

Cohort two: AarogyaAI, BrainSightAI, Fluid AI, InMed Prognostics, Wellthy Therapeutics and Onward Assist

Predible offers precision diagnostics for pulmonologists, using AI to generate insights from CT scans. This can be extremely useful while screening HR-CT scans for COVID-19 screening. Similarly, Deeptek also offers a similar service for analysis of chest X-Ray and CT scans to arrive at a preliminary COVID diagnosis, and is partnering with the Greater Chennai Corporation on this initiative. Further, 5C Network’s offering is a tele-radiology platform that allows a hospital access to the best radiologists on-demand.

All these solutions directly have played, and continue to play a critical role in tackling COVID-19 challenges.

Looking forward, what’s the ultimate goal of India EdisonTM Accelerator?

Starting from the first cohort, the India EdisonTM Accelerator has been growing in terms of the range of focus areas, the integration with the core businesses of GE Healthcare, etc.

The next steps for the programme (which are close to completion and announcement) are the establishment of a vibrant ecosystem through strong partnerships with various healthcare industry and academia stakeholders.

Over a longer term, the aim of the programme would be to work with all startups on joint commercialisation of their co-developed solutions after regulatory approval, helping to build GE Healthcare’s capability and product offerings in emerging technology areas. This is also in progress, and we are already working with a few of the cohort-one and cohort-two startups on this.

GE Healthcarehealth-tech solutionshealthcare startupsIndia Edison AcceleratorNritya Ganesh
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