RADIOLOGY IN THE NEW NORMAL

Per Edlund, Head of Radiology Commercial Operations Asia Pacific, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division

In this interview, Per discusses how the radiology practice has changed during COVID-19 and how innovation can better support radiologists and the healthcare industry in the new normal. He also emphasises on the importance of continued education and collaboration to develop scientific exchange and bolster the capabilities of radiology professionals.

How has the practice of radiology changed since COVID-19?

Many aspects have certainly changed. For one, many procedures were postponed by healthcare professionals in line with medical guidelines and society recommendations. This can delay critical diagnosis and treatment for severe diseases.

In addition, the workflow is impacted, because radiology suites need to have more stringent hygiene protocols in place e.g. for the stratification of patients of different risks, isolation areas set up for suspected COVID-19 patients etc. Healthcare workers and hospital infrastructure have also been strained due to the pandemic. These trends will lead to a growing demand for digital solutions that help radiology departments be more efficient and meet the increasing workload, while still imaging patients safely and accurately.

Safety, speed and accuracy are key needs in radiology – and our highest priority – especially here in the APAC region. Even before COVID-19, the pressure to diagnose many patients speedily and accurately in the APAC region was increasing, and now more than ever radiology clinics and departments need to be able to effectively handle a high number of patients. With the Asia-Pacific accounting for half of the world's population and will have nearly 5 billion people by 2050, and given its rapidly ageing population, this will drive a strong demand for diagnosis of chronic conditions like cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Speeding up the diagnostic process helps patients receive treatment earlier; clearer images lead to more accurate diagnosis and better treatment decisions; and maximising hygiene and minimising radiation exposure enhances patient safety.

In what ways can innovation in radiology support healthcare professionals to navigate the outbreak better?

The radiology industry can support healthcare professionals by putting patients first, and taking the time and effort to understand the common concerns and challenges faced by radiology clinics and professionals, and tailoring solutions to meet these needs.

Especially in these times of strained healthcare workers and systems, we know there is a keen need for timesaving, efficient diagnostic solutions. Many new and established solutions are already specifically designed to improve and automate workflow and hygienic safety, freeing radiology professionals to focus more on their patients, and keeping staff and patients safe.

Innovation in radiology should simplify and automate workflows for busy radiology departments, for instance by personalising injection protocols to specific patients, so that radiologists can focus more on patients. We see radiology innovations bringing value to radiologists by allowing clinics to serve more patients without compromising on patient safety and diagnostic accuracy.

Innovation can also help to cut down on unnecessary invasive surgeries. For example, it can be challenging to identify smaller liver lesions or differentiate between benign and malignant lesions before a surgery, and innovation in contrast agents can help make this possible, in some cases saving the need for surgery. This is especially relevant given that 70 per cent of the liver cancer incidence is in Asia, with a majority occurring in China.

How do you see continued education and collaboration supporting healthcare professionals manage the new realities of radiology practice?

As a scientific partner, we know that continuing professional education is critical in the dynamic field of radiology, and will contribute to better patient care by advancing medical practice.

In the new normal, supporting healthcare professionals with relevant, timely and targeted informative programmes and materials is crucial. Such ongoing education can help radiology professionals to prepare their patients better for imaging procedures and improve the standard of care.

We strongly believe in fostering scientific exchange—last year, we connected our Centers of Excellences in China with Latin American radiology clinics, for an exchange of experiences on how to handle the pandemic situation.

The value of collaboration is higher than ever to deliver breakthrough science, as evident in the accelerated development of novel vaccines during the pandemic. Open innovation and collaboration are major focus points, and we see digitalisation and artificial intelligence as the way forward, to help radiology suites become quicker and more efficient. For example, collaborations to deliver centralised access to a toolbox of digital and AI-powered applications can support the medical imaging workflow holistically. Such applications can assist with the complex decision-making processes of radiologists and their teams, which will potentially result in enhancing diagnostic confidence and enabling earlier disease interventions for patients. To illustrate, we have always embraced different forms of collaboration – from traditional licensing partnerships and strategic research alliances with companies and academia to new models of open innovation involving entrepreneurs, start-ups and young researchers. Through our global G4A (formerly known as Grants4Apps) open innovation platform, we promote and support digital and technological innovation in healthcare across the world, in areas including cardiology, oncology and women’s health.

Our partners benefit from our global presence and business acumen to grow their healthcare business startup ideas, while we drive towards transforming healthcare through collaboration.

--Issue 52--

Author Bio

Per Edlund

Per Edlund has about 20 years of experience leading multi-cultural teams to drive innovation, growth and patientcentricity, to meet unmet needs in the field of diagnostic radiology. He currently heads a diverse business featuring a portfolio that includes Contrast Agents, Medical Devices, Services, and Informatics.

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