Pioneering an ecosystem approach to advance innovation. Interview with Simon Rost, CMO-Enterprise Digital Solutions, GE Healthcare.

Today, various healthcare stakeholders create strategic collaborations aiming at forming ecosystems to drive innovation, improve quality of care and population outcomes and offer a personalized one-stop user experience to address patient’s needs and meet them where they are. Systems backed with an AI engine and data science can intelligently and efficiently tackle on a scalable level and cost-efficiently the gaps in care, smooth care workflows, speed up earlier diagnosis, and help care teams make the right clinical decisions, as well as empower patients to take control over their health and improve their daily moments. Recently, Simon Philip Rost, Chief Marketing Officer – Enterprise Digital Solutions, GE Healthcare, a leading global medical technology, pharmaceutical diagnostics and digital solutions innovator, introduced to us Edison Digital Health platform and shared company’s vision of building an impactful ecosystem, walked us through their unique EMEA Edison Accelerator, shared AI use cases and trends that accelerate the marriage of clinical medicine and data science.

Health systems, hospitals, health organizations / providers and digital innovators have accumulated enormous data points per patient and fragmented data sets in the form of real-time monitoring of vital signs and clinical trial data, images / videos, health records, population and claims data. Unfortunately, most of the time data is archived and kept within each institution. Data partnerships exist within the parameters of a certain collaboration, e.g. CSS an insurer is working with OnlineDoctor to address their members’ skin conditions, Propeller Health is partnering with a global Pharma to co-package their device with a medication, Biobeat is collaborating with various outpatient clinics, so patients do not have to be hospitalized to be properly monitored.

Partnerships are the central vehicle in enabling innovation and healthcare transformation at scale. Digital health ecosystems unlock great value to all collaborative partners. Data from consumer wearables, connected medical devices, pharmacies, labs & research centers, and EMRs can lead to key personal insights to help further personalize a patient’s journey.

One size fits all approach in care is no longer satisfactory. The challenge in healthcare delivery is providing tailored quality care solutions and services to large patient populations at a reasonable cost. The cost of human care is very high, and it is not scalable. To support a tailored continuum of care, give an accurate view into what is happening with patients outside the clinical setting and get a cohesive health picture of each individual, an open data flow between all healthcare stakeholders needs to occur. Having all the data in one place is not enough. AI enabled tools and software can rapidly analyze this data and uncover patterns and insights to help healthcare teams make better action driven customized evidence-based clinical decisions, improve the quality of the experience and adherence, reduce healthcare team’s burnout and care cost by also having repetitive tasks automated. To better health outcomes AI and innovative technologies need to be seamlessly integrated into the clinical workflow and really empower healthcare teams, not add more complexity. A holistic approach of AI driven treatment and human care could bring us closer to more accurate and efficient individualized models of care.

To dive a bit deeper in this fascinating space, we talked to Simon Philip Rost, Chief Marketing Officer – Enterprise Digital Solutions, GE Healthcare, about how the company brings partnerships to life in the digital health space and how it leads digital transformation and co-creation in AI and digital health technologies, why big tech companies are accelerating their pursuit of the healthcare market and how collaborations with diverse market players in healthcare can enhance value propositions and ultimately better populations health outcomes, as well as what is ahead of GE Healthcare.

Enjoy the interview.

Research2Guidance: Earlier this year GE Healthcare introduced the Edison Digital Health Platform. Can you please briefly share more about it.

Simon Philip Rost: Healthcare systems today experience fragmentation because of disjointed data sources and separate, sometimes incompatible vendors. This “digital friction” makes it difficult for healthcare systems to adopt the apps needed to manage enormous amounts of disparate clinical, diagnostic, and operational data. To address this challenge, we designed the Edison Digital Health Platform, a vendor-agnostic hosting, development, and data aggregation platform with an integrated artificial intelligence engine.

The platform is being developed to help healthcare systems effectively deploy and seamlessly integrate clinical, workflow, analytics, and AI tools. With this integrated digital platform approach we aim to help our customers as they work to improve care quality, promote high-efficiency operations, reduce the IT burden, increase revenue growth, and enhance patient and staff experiences.

At this point, we are recruiting healthcare providers and ecosystem participants to evaluate the platform in a production setting.

Research2Guidance: Building an ecosystem of third-party digital health solutions is of strategic relevance for most established healthcare companies. However, success stories are not that common. Would you agree?

Simon Philip Rost: Not one player in the industry has all the solutions and wisdom to address the challenges alone. Our sector has recognized the need for leveraging an ecosystem approach to advance innovation. Healthcare companies are partnering with digital health solution providers or investing in start-ups or scale-ups at an unprecedented rate. A proof point for this is the fact that global digital health funding skyrocketed in 2021 reaching $50B (State Of Digital Health 2021 Report – CBInsights).

Furthermore, your recent white paper states that more than 300 accelerators are globally trying to identify and accelerate partnerships between healthcare incumbents and start-ups. These vibrant and emerging ecosystems should spark excitement in our sector going forward.

It’s worthwhile to notice that good things need time, healthcare is at an early stage in this collaboration voyage, and we should look at other sectors that embarked earlier on the ecosystem journey, such as Insurtech and Fintech.

Healthcare is a complex and highly regulated sector where a lot is at stake, thus we should not rush into these partnerships, but carefully observe success stories from other sectors, apply the transferable learnings, and account for the specificities of healthcare. It all starts with bringing together all relevant stakeholders early in the process of the problem statement definition and solution building.

Research2Guidance: Indeed. We had recently a panel discussion with key thought leaders from Life Science companies and digital innovators, and one of the key messages was that to build successful and impactful ecosystems the healthcare stakeholders involved need to align right from the beginning on a common vision and have the right incentives. What are the most interesting partnerships that you have entered in the past two years?

Simon Philip Rost: At GE Healthcare we believe in the power of a collaborative ecosystem.

Last year we launched the EMEA Edison Accelerator, our customer collaboration and start-up/scale-up acceleration program. In this program, we partner with healthcare providers, start-ups, industry providers, and acceleration partners to drive digital transformation and co-creation in AI and digital health technologies. The program is a unique example of how we bring partnerships to life in the digital health space. In the first edition of the program, we received over 350 applications from start-ups that were interested, and we admitted six start-ups to the first cohort.

For eight months, the start-ups worked with four healthcare providers on three verified problem statements that we defined together with the program advisory board and with the healthcare providers participating in the program. We added our knowledge and our technology stack as a med tech and digital health powerhouse to the program.

In this intensive period of collaboration, each stakeholder generated different learnings, as cooperation we learned to become nimble and agile, to evaluate customer problem statements from different angles, and to unite the ecosystem by providing a focused value proposition to each stakeholder of the ecosystem. These ecosystem partnerships will get a lot of attention in healthcare, and this shift towards collaboration is exactly what our sector needs.

Research2Guidance: It is interesting to hear some of the use cases of how GE Healthcare is applying AI & Machine Learning. What opportunities and challenges do you see within this space?

Simon Philip Rost: I recently read the following comparison: artificial intelligence means for the digital transformation what electricity meant to the second industrial revolution. AI is the most disruptive enabler of digital transformation that is desperately needed in our sector and the technology that is changing the way we deliver healthcare in certain segments. In this way, the analogy with electricity makes complete sense to me.

Today, AI use cases range from applications that increase clinical confidence, such as the detection of cancer or fractures in imaging, to workflow automation tools, such as the automating and structuring of diagnostic reporting, to predictive maintenance and device occupation that improve operational efficiency. AI is also helping hospitals forecast and manage patient flow and with healthcare increasingly moving out of the hospital into the home, AI-based insights empower patients enabling them to take a more active role in their care and prevention.

We provide algorithms at various stages of the care continuum. Tangible applications of our algorithms in the clinical field are our Critical Care Suite (CCS) and Quality Care Suite (QCS), computer-aided triage and notification software solutions. The set of algorithms analyses frontal chest x-ray images to identify those cases with a critical finding (pneumothorax) and enables case prioritization for the radiologist.

On the operational side, we develop AI that can determine the probability of patients not showing up for an examination. Patients with high probabilities can be targeted to get a further reminder, organize transport, or other activities to enable better patient access.

A third example I’d like to highlight is our Command Center, where applied prescriptive analytics help healthcare systems get the real-time status of patients and critical resources within the hospital system. AI and system engineering are enabling the provider to predict what could happen next so their teams can get ahead of it.

I believe that clinical AI has a great value, but I would argue the more far-reaching value lies behind the scenes in the world of operational AI. Of course, outcomes in patient care are crucial, but the ground-breaking potential of AI might lie in attacking inefficiencies, where operational AI and machine learning could become indispensable.

Challenges that are still holding us back to bring this game-changing technology into mainstream practice include the missing interoperability of systems, siloed data, the limited integration of apps into the healthcare professional’s workflow, current regulatory limitations, the remaining trust gap between professionals and patients and, the missing model of value exchange.

Research2Guidance: For years tech companies have tried to enter the healthcare market. In our latest “Global Digital Health Business Outlook – 2022” whitepaper, one survey participant from a digital health company shared “The International organizations like Microsoft, AWS, Google, Oracle, and Facebook are where the growth lies. The Cerner, Epics, etc. will soon be consumed by them.” What are your thoughts on that?

Simon Philip Rost: Few industries are as complex, comprehensive, fascinating, and promising at the same time as healthcare. Today healthcare systems around the world are on an unsustainable trajectory due to an increasing population with growing chronic diseases, a global deficit of skilled healthcare professionals, limited access, varying levels of quality of care, wasteful processes, a backlog of procedures triggered by COVID-19 and, increasing mental & cognitive burden on healthcare workers.

The need for digital health technologies such as AI has never been felt more strongly than today, so it’s not a surprise that the big tech companies Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and the likes are accelerating their pursuit of the healthcare market, each focusing on their strengths and aligned to their company strategies.

The traditional and monolithic approach to bringing digital health applications and healthcare IT solutions to market will be challenged. There are two critical levers to accelerate the much-needed digital transformation and drive the adoption of innovative tools in healthcare: platforming and collaboration.

The curation of a digital and collaborative ecosystem, in which each of the stakeholders (healthcare providers, med tech companies, technology providers including big tech, start-ups, acceleration partners, industry and patient associations, etc.) focus on their main strength and collaborate at eye-level is essential.

From my point of view the new entrants into healthcare, let them be big tech or start-ups, should be seen as potential partners, instead of being seen as major threats. As a traditional player in healthcare, we must figure out how to join forces and how partnerships with the new incumbents enhance our existing value propositions and provide value to our customers.

If there is one thing that we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that we can achieve rapid innovation if we work together as an ecosystem. We should keep this mindset going forward.

Research2Guidance: What trends in the digital health space excite you?

Simon Philip Rost: Successful healthcare organizations of the future will marry clinical medicine and data science. Five current trends accelerate this marriage of sciences and thus should be on the radar of every decision-maker in healthcare.

  1. The connected and empowered patient
  2. The rise of digital health platforms and artificial intelligence
  3. The convergence of healthcare, fitness, and wellness
  4. An emerging collaborative health ecosystem with traditional and new players
  5. The adoption of cloud, democratizing access to digital health technology

If our industry deeply understands these developments and fully embraces today’s technological capabilities, then the delivery, access, and experience of healthcare will improve accordingly. I believe that the healthcare of the future will be data-driven, personalized, virtual (digitally enabled), prevention-focused, and value-based. Digital technologies will accelerate our way to getting there.

Research2Guidance: What is ahead for GE Healthcare?

Simon Philip Rost: At GE Healthcare we aim to enable our customers to deliver on the potential of data-driven precision medicine. This means merging clinical medicine and data science across the patient care pathways to provide integrated, efficient, and highly personalized diagnostics, treatments, and care. I truly believe GE Healthcare belongs to the companies having the capabilities, relationships, portfolio depth, knowledge, and reach to achieve this. Thus, we will continue our path strengthening our position as a leading innovator striving for precision health, partnering with key actors across the health ecosystem, and leveraging digital innovation to unlock capacity and improve outcomes.

ABOUT GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare is the $17.7 billion healthcare business of GE (NYSE: GE). As a leading global medical technology, pharmaceutical diagnostics and digital solutions innovator, GE Healthcare enables clinicians to make faster, more informed decisions through intelligent devices, data analytics, applications and services, supported by its Edison intelligence platform. With over 100 years of healthcare industry experience and around 48,000 employees globally, the company operates at the center of an ecosystem working toward precision health, digitizing healthcare, helping drive productivity and improve outcomes for patients, providers, health systems and researchers around the world.

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