Medtronic leaders pick three technologies that are key for the future of endoscopy

New Medtronic Endoscopy President Raj Thomas and Medtronic Endoscopy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Austin Chiang […]

New Medtronic Endoscopy President Raj Thomas and Medtronic Endoscopy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Austin Chiang say their business inside the world’s largest device company is betting on AI, robotics and connectivity as key technologies for the field’s future.

Medtronic Endoscopy has already demonstrated AI’s life-saving ability with their GI Genius system for colonoscopy, which uses deep learning to help physicians spot signs of colon cancer they otherwise might miss.

And Medtronic’s latest version of the PillCam capsule endoscopy kit takes a step forward in connectivity with a new adhesive, wearable link device that captures data from a swallowable PillCam inside a patient and wirelessly transmits it to the cloud. That eliminates the need for patients to wear a bulky recorder and sensor belt and return them to their doctor to download the data — and means doctors don’t need to wait for that equipment to return before assigning it to another patient.

“The PillCam had been already approved for home ingestion and the vision — which currently as it is, isn’t entirely complete yet — is to save the patient from even having to go into the office at all,” Chiang said in an interview.

Asked by Medical Design & Outsourcing to identify key technologies for the future of endoscopy, here’s what Thomas and Chiang said (the following has been lightly edited for clarity and space):

1. Artificial intelligence

Thomas: “For us in endoscopy, it’s AI where we can improve patient outcomes by helping with detection or reducing human error. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory term, but instead like the second set of eyes that a physician has on whatever they’re doing. And then it’s just efficiency in the procedures for two aspects: the patient outcomes, but also being efficient in the procedures that start from the consent to the actual documentation. If you can be more efficient there or AI can help the physician there, then they’re freeing up time to actually focus on patient care versus documenting and all the different things.”

“Within GI Genius, we have the AI Access platform,” Thomas later continued. “We’re working with third parties to bring apps with AI in the endoscopy space that will be developed and then added to our platform. Where we have been less specific but we need to get after is where else can AI apply within what we do: How does EndoFLIP (endoluminal functional lumen imaging probe) or Barrx or Bravo or PillCam fit into an AI ecosystem? That we are continuing to work on. We have high-level plans, but that is in the forefront because I believe we have an advantage at the moment in our thinking around AI and we have the GI Genius — the box itself — that will support it. So how can we provide the extra value to our physicians and patients using AI? We do think about it a lot, and there will be more to come. AI Access is the closest thing to be talking about.”

Related: How Medtronic’s using AI: Artificial intelligence insights and advice

2. Robotics

Chiang: “I would echo everything Raj just said there about AI. … There’s still a lot of ways that not only AI, but also robotics, can help expand what we can do clinically. A lot of gastroenterology has been taking surgical procedures and making them less invasive. Both AI and robotics can help facilitate that and allow us to do things that we previously weren’t able to do and improve patient outcomes that way.”

3. Connectivity

Thomas: “The last one is device connectivity. With AI, how do you bring the data into the ecosystem, which helps with patient outcomes but also that efficiency? That’s how I’ve started to think about it from mostly an endoscopy standpoint, but there’s certainly applicability within med device.”

Chiang: “On connectivity, our newly FDA-cleared iteration for PillCam includes the link device and improves the patient experience. Connectivity can help with improving the whole patient experience around the care that they’re getting and the relationship with medical devices. That’s really important. Right now, Raj is very closely involved in this new movement that we have within Medtronic around patient centricity and involving patients at every step of the way of the innovation process and improving patient comfort and experience with the product. That aspect is probably very relevant to a lot of engineers who are in Medical Design & Outsourcing‘s audience in terms of human-centered design and ensuring that this isn’t just fulfilling a clinical need, but also helping with how the patient interacts with the product.”

Look for more from this interview with Medtronic Endoscopy’s Raj Thomas and Dr. Austin Chiang at Medical Design & Outsourcing in the weeks ahead.

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