Images, data, interoperability, and analytics were front and center in a discussion session involving patient care organization leaders from the United States and Canada and senior executives of GE Healthcare, in the GE Healthcare booth Monday morning, at the 2015 RSNA Conference, being held Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.
Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chairman of the board and CEO of General Electric, led a discussion that also included John Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, an $18 billion business unit of General Electric; Rasu Shrestha, M.D., chief innovation officer at the 20-plus-hospital UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) Health System; and Rueben Devlin, M.D., president and CEO of the Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Ontario.
Immelt, a well-known business figure, has long been involved in GE’s healthcare strategy; he noted that “This is the eighteenth time I’ve personally been to RSNA,” adding that “The one thing that’s become clear is how important information’s become in the radiology business, but also throughout healthcare. One of the things we see in the booth and everywhere at the show,” he added, “is how you take all this information and turn it into meaningful outcomes, including workflow outcomes. This is the big challenge today.”
Dr. Devlin, who boasts that Humber River Hospital was the first truly all-digital hospital in North America, spoke of such challenges and opportunities, agreeing that absorbing and using data from many different sources is a key focus for him and his colleagues right now. In order to achieve their vision of leveraging data for the optimization of care delivery processes, he said, “It’s important to have [information system] interoperability, whether it’s from CT, MR, from a blood pressure monitoring machine or a cardiac monitor; we want all the data to be available. And then the issue is, what are we going to do with all that data, once we have it? It requires a process to create an organization where all the processes in the hospital are fully automated.”
Asked by Immelt to share about UPMC’s data usage and strategies, Dr. Shrestha said, “At UPMC, we’re definitely seeing a lot of data, and this is the trend. We’ve moved from analog and paper to paperless and filmless” over the past number of years. “We have over 85 petabytes of data at UPMC, which doubles every 24 months. And you see massive tectonic shifts in the industry” compelling change he said. “One is the massive consolidation taking place among providers, payers, vendors. And the second is around healthcare reform. And it brings opportunities around moving from volume to value, doing more with less. And the power is in the data. How do you leverage the data and close the loop at the point of decisionmaking?”
“One of the things I see in every hospital,” Immelt said, “is big investments in EMR. But they say, now I’ve got this, what’s next? What are some of the innovations exciting you?”
“There are lots of innovations to talk about,” Shrestha said. “But if phase one” in the healthcare industry’s leveraging of data for process optimization “was moving from analog to digital, phase two is where we are right now, talking about how to leverage the data. We’re focusing on things like machine learning, analytics, the power of deep learning to drive towards better insights,” he said. “Connecting these insights, and making the data relevant,” are strong areas of focus right now across U.S. healthcare, he added, “because context is king. And as radiologists, we’re more detectives than [pure] clinicians. When we have just enough information, we order a story or report on a specific exam. And that’s just-enough healthcare. And just-enough healthcare isn’t good enough.”
Devlin noted that “We have a lot of data, and some of it isn’t very useful. Per analytics, I want to go towards a predictive model, to help with preventive medicine, keeping people out of our facility, or moving towards care management to keep them from coming back into our facility.”
“Ruben, you’re a physician and CEO,” Immelt noted. “What does a doctor have to do now?”
Devlin replied, “We can’t get away from the fact that our vision elements [at Humber River Hospital] were Lean, green, and digital, with regard to the hospital. But at the center” of the organization’s core focus, he added, “are the patient and family. So we want to give the clinician the tools to make care better. You don’t replace person-to-person contact, but you give them better tools. You help take them away from writing” focused on documentation. “You give them predictive analytical tools. And you give them things like command centers to take action. So there are many things we can do to give them tools. But it doesn’t change person-to-person contact.”
Turning to Flannery, Immelt said, “John, you have to make the R&D decisions. How do you see more investment in hardware versus cloud, connectivity, and so on?”
It’s not an either-or decision,” Flannery insisted. “We continue to invest heavily in hardware. But for sure, we’re orienting more of the investment going forward, and expanding it, in the software aspects, the data aspects, the analytics aspects. And we’re trying to do that much more in conjunction with our customers. Understanding their dynamics, their investment issues. It’s a juggling act, but we have to do both. But for us to get the most value out of it, we have to partner with them.”
“Rasu, when you look at the future, what will the future be for radiologists, what will they have to be good at, how will they fit?” Immelt asked
“We’ve seen radiologists slowly coming out of the dark corners of the reading rooms,” Shrestha replied. “We’re seeing that the future of healthcare will be value-based. And quantifying that value, and working with a partner like GE, to go from vision to execution, that’s what we’re interested in. And we believe progress will rely on partnerships. We’re a $3 billion organization, with 62000 employees, 3,000 physicians, 2.8 million lives covered, over 10,000 physician networks,” he added. “And at the end of the day, we believe that innovation is all about humanizing the healthcare enterprise and improving outcomes.”
Devlin said, “When we made the claim to be North America’s first fully digital hospital, we asked, what kind of methodology will we use to make progress? And one thing was, we wanted a managed equipment contract. We did an RFP that wended up with GE, that includes new equipment, replacement, and servicing. And that guarantees that for the next ten years, we’ll have a guarantee of service for them. And that does help get the radiologists out of the reading room. And it provides better care for our patients if they can read remotely from home or on a mobile device. That’s better care.”
“What are you hearing from customers?” Immelt asked Flannery. “Two things, basically, Jeff,” Flannery responded. One is that the door is wide-open, from their standpoint They’re saying, please work with us. There’s interest in dialogue and support. And second, the ability to transform that information into clinical outcomes, into cost productivity, into patient experience we get that over and over again. And on the cloud side, we’re talking about huge volumes of data. And the computational power of the cloud is transformative. It’s affected many other industries, it’s going to massively affect us in healthcare. So we’re very much connected, and are collaborating with the customers on that.”
Flannery and Immelt both made note of GE Healthcare’s announcement Sunday that it had unveiled its new “GE Health Cloud,” with a company press release noting that “the new cloud ecosystem and its applications will connect radiologists and clinicians to speed, efficiency and collaboration across care pathways and multidisciplinary teams—both inside and outside the hospital setting.”
That announcement further noted that “The new cloud will connect to more than 500,000 GE imaging machines, shifting image post-processing from on-site machines to the cloud. From the cloud, 3-D images can then be viewed on multiple devices – inside and outside the hospital setting. The GE Health Cloud and apps will give clinicians on-demand, flexible computing power that can scale up or down. By opening its cloud for third party app development, GE intends to attract independent software vendors (ISVs) to develop their apps in the new cloud ecosystem,” the announcement added.