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Digital Transformation in Healthcare Shouldn’t Begin with AI

Mention ‘healthcare’ and ‘digital’ in the same sentence, and you’ll almost certainly have people talking about robot surgeons and artificial intelligence-enhanced doctors. But for Rajat Karol, head of digital for GE Healthcare in the region, that’s putting the cart before the horse. 

Yes, there is a place for artificial intelligence (AI) in clinical settings, such as assisting in diagnosing symptoms and analyzing medical images such as MRIs, but he says there is a broader use that can have a much bigger impact. “Customers are asking us how they can use AI. But AI represents not the first, but rather the third level of a digital transformation for healthcare providers.”

For Karol, General Manager of GE Healthcare Digital in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, descriptive analytics are the basis of this transformation. 

All types of entities, including national health ministries, private healthcare groups, and new hospitals or clinics can use descriptive analytics to better understand everything from operations, equipment and staff, to patient characteristics and health outcomes.

By analyzing the huge amount of data that can be collected through digitization, organizations can discover trends impacting their operations and populations and identify “pain points and roadblocks in their critical path to delivering healthcare services,” Karol says. 

Another aspect is prescriptive analytics: “Once they have an understanding of where they stand, adopting prescriptive analytics can help them find new, more efficient ways to operate their facilities and equipment, deploy people, treat patients and improve outcomes,” he says. 

This, in turn, can help both ministries and healthcare providers make “step-change improvements to the way they operate, and how they approach and deliver care across entire groups of patients.” 

“At GE, we are helping ministries and hospital chains first think about and structure their approach, then support them with digital solutions that use data and analytics to achieve their goals and priorities,” he says. 

Only then, Karol says, is it the right time to consider AI in a clinical setting.

GE Healthcare Digital is supporting customers through all stages of transformation, as a consultant, integrator, digital transformation advisor, and provider of digital solutions that complement GE’s state-of-the-art imaging, diagnostic and treatment equipment. 

These digital healthcare solutions include business software to improve cost-effectiveness, clinical and imaging solutions to drive productivity, workflows to foster patient safety, interoperability with other systems, and complete clinical data at the point of care. 

GE is showing the region’s growing healthcare groups how to use digitization to address one of their biggest challenges: giving their patients access to world-class experts. While these healthcare groups are able to make the investments necessary to install the latest, most advanced equipment, staffing is tougher, Karol says.

 To address this, they can use GE technology such as Centricity 360, access experts from around the world or bring together their own experts from various hospitals, whether within or across countries. Using a secure cloud platform, doctors can share diagnostic information, communicate and collaborate on a patient’s diagnosis and treatment. 

For new private hospitals, including those focused on particular fields such as oncology and long-term trauma rehabilitation, Karol says GE Healthcare is providing not only GE equipment and digital software, but a comprehensive solution using GE-validated third parties. This helps hospitals get “up and running as soon as possible.”

Some recent examples of GE Healthcare supporting customers with these digital solutions include a government-run hospital in Algeria, where GE technology is helping speed workflows, simplify processes, improve collaboration, and enhance diagnostic precision and productivity.

GE is helping Hammoud Hospital University Medical Center in Lebanon in Lebanon make a digital transformation by providing a Centricity solution that incorporates Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) and Radiology Information Systems (RIS). 

In Turkey, Hacettepe University Hospital will install GE Centricity’s Cardio Enterprise, which will help enhance care by providing cardiologists with a single point of access to unify patient data, cardiovascular imaging and reports. 

Building on the digitization already underway, Karol sees two trends that will impact healthcare in the region in coming years:

The first will be the use of standards-agnostic cloud-based patient data storage. Healthcare providers will move away from hospital-level infrastructure to cloud-based options. This way hospital groups can better keep patient data updated, and better share within the group or with other care providers. It also results in lower capital expenses and greater scalability. It also means that no matter where the patient goes for care, their information will be accessible, in a secure manner, to authorized providers. 

The second will address the frustration in the lack of standardization among healthcare vendor hardware and software. As a result, healthcare operators will turn to vendor-agnostic software solutions that will allow the integration of different OEM hardware and software. This will enable a unified system to allow hospitals and care networks to efficiently communicate and collaborate to provide the best patient care.

Business: Digital, Healthcare

Country: Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, UAE

Keywords: AI, Descriptive analytics, Digital Transformation