Data is at the beginning, middle, end of healthcare’s future. Some feel like healthcare is playing catch up to other industries that digitally transformed earlier, such as financial services, but I see healthcare as perfectly positioned to benefit from a raft of proven business cases and technology. That’s where Siemens Healthineers come in.
I had the good fortune to interview Peter Shen, VP Business Development, Digital Health, Siemens Healthineers, to talk about everything that’s happening in his world of healthcare technology at the moment. You can listen to our full podcast conversation at the link below.
What is Siemens Healthineers
A few years ago, Siemens global decided that their healthcare division, which has for decades produced some of the world’s best imaging and diagnostic equipment, would do even better if it had more freedom to explore new technologies and partnerships. And so Siemens Healthineers was born: Engineers + Health sciences on a mission to best leverage new technologies to help clinicians and their patients.
Siemens are renowned for their ingenuity and innovation but even they can’t do it all, and they’re well aware of that. Their goal in building the Healthineers was not to be limited. They didn’t WANT to become specialists in data infrastructure, they wanted to further develop their own unique capabilities in health sciences algorithmic problem solving.
As Peter says, “Our focus is on the healthcare side. We needed a partner for our digitalisation strategy to help make sure the infrastructure was there.” So, they invited Intel to their newly built AI think tank in the US and had a conversation that turned into an incredibly fruitful partnership.
Together, Siemens Healthineers and Intel are working to help clinicians expand precision medicine to be more accurate in their diagnosis, to transform how they deliver care, and above all, to improve the patient experience, based on the things that matter to patients.
Did I mention data?
Siemens Healthineers Benefits
The Healthineers engineering team processes enormous amounts of data, piles of it. They’ll look at a patient scenario, such as a respiratory issue, and think through the algorithms they could run to try to diagnose the condition. They work backwards to determine the data set and data requirements and forward to develop the algorithms. They might decide that 30 or even 40 algorithms are required to arrive at useful diagnostic information for the doctor to review. And those algorithms have to run in an enormously timely manner, because they are also trying to reduce turn time – between running tests and having not just the results but the interpretations in hand as quickly as possible, because that’s important to patients and time could be of the essence.
Digital twins are becoming part of this exercise, too. In order for the models to generate useful diagnostic information, they have to ingest a full picture of the patient’s current health and medical history. Just imagine the memory, storage and compute required for that! Well, the Healthineers engineers were tremendously thankful that they didn’t have to – they could work side by side with Intel engineers, sharing their use cases and requirements and leveraging the tremendous compute power of Intel solutions to make it happen.
I can only imagine the “eureka” moments between the engineering team, sheer magic. Peter confirms: “These are really fun conversations,” he says, “Our engineers can run as many simulations as they need to get the results clinicians want,” to make an accurate timely diagnosis.
But back to data. As with many other industries, there’s almost too much of it, and it’s not in the right format for analysis. “Providers need to use this [clinical and operational data] but first they have to extract it,” says Peter. And Siemen’s devices are contributing a lot of data too. Part of the challenge is then, “how to make those devices deliver the right information back to providers so that they can make decisions. The data varies widely from a static xray to a beating heart that you’re trying to figure out the volume of blood going through the ventricles and you’re trying to do calculations while it’s moving. Trying to ingest all of these different types of data and draw conclusions from it is difficult.”
Fortunately, I feel as though the patient themselves is on the side of technology advancements in healthcare. We are all tethered to a digital device, we’re comfortable with digital information and we expect healthcare to be part of that cultural shift. For example, in Australia, with our far flung population, we’d absolutely welcome advances in remote care. Peter talks about specialists being able to remotely operate an advanced imaging device located thousands of miles away – I think that’s fantastic. Instead of flying patients into the big city as we do now, we could “teleport” the doctor to the patient.
I get a very strong “can-do” spirit from Peter. Some of the challenges his team face are specific to healthcare but some are being tackled in other industries as well, such as image and video analysis, and I’m confident that their startup mentality and interest in partnerships will continue to help them solve this problem more quickly through co-create thinking. I encourage you to listen to our full conversation and let me know what you think. My thanks to Peter and the entire team at Siemens Healthineers and Intel for making the interview possible.