Google designed the suite to ease radiologists’ workload and enable easy and secure sharing of critical medical imaging; technology may eventually be adapted to pathologists’ workflow
Clinical laboratory and pathology group leaders know that Google is doing extensive research and development in the field of cancer diagnostics. For several years, the Silicon Valley giant has been focused on digital imaging and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and machine learning to detect cancer.
Now, Google Cloud has announced it is launching a new medical imaging suite for radiologists that is aimed at making healthcare data for the diagnosis and care of cancer patients more accessible. The new suite “promises to make medical imaging data more interoperable and useful by leveraging artificial intelligence,” according to MedCity News.
“Hackensack Meridian Health has begun using it to detect metastasis in prostate cancer patients earlier, and Hologic is using it to strengthen its diagnostic platform that screens women for cervical cancer,” MedCity News reported.
“Google pioneered the use of AI and computer vision in Google Photos, Google Image Search, and Google Lens, and now we’re making our imaging expertise, tools, and technologies available for healthcare and life sciences enterprises,” said Alissa Hsu Lynch (above), Global Lead of Google Cloud’s MedTech Strategy and Solutions, in a press release. “Our Medical Imaging Suite shows what’s possible when tech and healthcare companies come together.” Clinical laboratory companies may find Google’s Medical Imaging Suite worth investigating. (Photo copyright: Influencive.)
Easing the Burden on Radiologists
Clinical laboratory leaders and pathologists know that laboratory data drives most healthcare decision-making. And medical images make up 90% of all healthcare data, noted an article in Proceedings of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).
More importantly, medical images are growing in size and complexity. So, radiologists and medical researchers need a way to quickly interpret them and keep up with the increased workload, Google Cloud noted.
“The size and complexity of these images is huge, and, often, images stay sitting in data siloes across an organization,” said Alissa Hsu Lynch, Global Lead, MedTech Strategy and Solutions at Google, told MedCity News. “In order to make imaging data useful for AI, we have to address interoperability and standardization. This suite is designed to help healthcare organizations accelerate the development of AI so that they can enable faster, more accurate diagnosis and ease the burden for radiologists,” she added.
According to the press release, Google Cloud’s Medical Imaging Suite features include:
Imaging Storage: Easy and secure data exchange using the international DICOM (digital imaging and communications in medicine) standard for imaging. A fully managed, highly scalable, enterprise-grade development environment that includes automated DICOM de-identification. Seamless cloud data management via a cloud-native enterprise imaging PACS (picture archiving and communication system) in clinical use by radiologists.
Imaging Lab: AI-assisted annotation tools that help automate the highly manual and repetitive task of labeling medical images, and Google Cloud native integration with any DICOMweb viewer.
Imaging Datasets and Dashboards: Ability to view and search petabytes of imaging data to perform advanced analytics and create training datasets with zero operational overhead.
Imaging AI Pipelines: Accelerated development of AI pipelines to build scalable machine learning models, with 80% fewer lines of code required for custom modeling.
Imaging Deployment: Flexible options for cloud, on-prem (on-premises software), or edge deployment to allow organizations to meet diverse sovereignty, data security, and privacy requirements—while providing centralized management and policy enforcement with Google Distributed Cloud.
First Customers Deploy Suite
Hackensack Meridian Health hopes Google’s imaging suite will, eventually, enable the healthcare provider to predict factors affecting variance in prostate cancer outcomes.
“We are working toward building AI capabilities that will support image-based clinical diagnosis across a range of imaging and be an integral part of our clinical workflow,” said Sameer Sethi, Senior Vice President and Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Hackensack, in a news release.
The New Jersey healthcare network said in a statement that its work with Google Cloud includes use of AI and machine learning to enable notification of newborn congenital disorders and to predict sepsis risk in real-time.
Hologic, a medical technology company focused on women’s health, said its collaboration integrates Google Cloud AI with the company’s Genius Digital Diagnostics System.
“By complementing our expertise in diagnostics and AI with Google Cloud’s expertise in AI, we’re evolving our market-leading technologies to improve laboratory performance, healthcare provider decision making, and patient care,” said Michael Quick, Vice President of Research and Development and Innovation at Hologic, in the press release.
Hologic says its Genius Digital Diagnostics System combines AI with volumetric medical imaging to find pre-cancerous lesions and cancer cells. From a Pap test digital image, the system narrows “tens of thousands of cells down to an AI-generated gallery of the most diagnostically relevant,” according to the company website.
Hologic plans to work with Google Cloud on storage and “to improve diagnostic accuracy for those cancer images,” Hsu Lynch told MedCity News.
Medical image storage and sharing technologies like Google Cloud’s Medical Imaging Suite provide an opportunity for radiologists, researchers, and others to share critical image studies with anatomic pathologists and physicians providing care to cancer patients.
One key observation is that the primary function of this service that Google has begun to deploy is to aid in radiology workflow and productivity, and to improve the accuracy of cancer diagnoses by radiologists. Meanwhile, Google continues to employ pathologists within its medical imaging research and development teams.
Assuming that the first radiologists find the Google suite of tools effective in support of patient care, it may not be too long before Google moves to introduce an imaging suite of tools designed to aid the workflow of surgical pathologists as well.
And in less than eight hours, they had diagnosed a child with a rare genetic disorder, results that would take clinical laboratory testing weeks to return, demonstrating the clinical value of the genomic process
In another major genetic sequencing advancement, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a method for rapid sequencing of patients’ whole human genome in as little as five hours. And the researchers used their breakthrough to diagnose rare genetic diseases in under eight hours, according to a Stanford Medicine news release. Their new “ultra-rapid genome sequencing approach” could lead to significantly faster diagnostics and improved clinical laboratory treatments for cancer and other diseases.
“A few weeks is what most clinicians call ‘rapid’ when it comes to sequencing a patient’s genome and returning results,” said cardiovascular disease specialist Euan Ashley, MD, PhD (above), professor of medicine, genetics, and biomedical data science, at Stanford University in the news release. “The right people suddenly came together to achieve something amazing. We really felt like we were approaching a new frontier.” Their results could lead to faster diagnostics and clinical laboratory treatments. (Photo copyright: Stanford Medicine.)
Need for Fast Genetic Diagnosis
In their NEJM paper, the Stanford scientists argue that rapid genetic diagnosis is key to clinical management, improved prognosis, and critical care cost savings.
“Although most critical care decisions must be made in hours, traditional testing requires weeks and rapid testing requires days. We have found that nanopore genome sequencing can accurately and rapidly provide genetic diagnoses,” the authors wrote.
To complete their study, the researchers sequenced the genomes of 12 patients from two hospitals in Stanford, Calif. They used nanopore genome sequencing, cloud computing-based bioinformatics, and a “custom variant prioritization.”
Their findings included:
Five people received a genetic diagnosis from the sequencing information in about eight hours.
Diagnostic rate of 42%, about 12% higher than the average rate for diagnosis of genetic disorders (the researchers noted that not all conditions are genetically based and appropriate for sequencing).
Five hours and two minutes to sequence a patient’s genome in one case.
Seven hours and 18 minutes to sequence and diagnose that case.
How the Nanopore Process Works
To advance sequencing speed, the researchers used equipment by Oxford Nanopore Technologies with 48 sequencing units called “flow cells”—enough to sequence a person’s whole genome at one time.
The Oxford Nanopore PromethION Flow Cell generates more than 100 gigabases of data per hour, AI Time Journal reported. The team used a cloud-based storage system to enable computational power for real-time analysis of the data. AI algorithms scanned the genetic code for errors and compared the patients’ gene variants to variants associated with diseases found in research data, Stanford explained.
“Together with our collaborators and some of the world’s leaders in genomics, we were able to develop a rapid sequencing analysis workflow that has already shown tangible clinical benefits,” said Mehrzad Samadi, PhD, NVIDIA Senior Engineering Manager and co-author of the NEJM paper, in the blog post. “These are the kinds of high-impact problems we live to solve.”
In their paper, the Stanford researchers described their use of the rapid genetic test to diagnose and treat an infant who was experiencing epileptic seizures on arrival to Stanford’s pediatric emergency department. In just eight hours, their diagnostic test found that the infant’s convulsions were attributed to a mutation in the gene CSNK2B, “a variant and gene known to cause a neurodevelopmental disorder with early-onset epilepsy,” the researchers wrote.
“By accelerating every step of this process—from collecting a blood sample to sequencing the whole genome to identifying variants linked to diseases—[the Stanford] research team took just hours to find a pathogenic variant and make a definitive diagnosis in a three-month-old infant with a rare seizure-causing genetic disorder. A traditional gene panel analysis ordered at the same time took two weeks to return results,” AI Time Journal reported.
The Stanford research team wants to cut the sequencing time in half. But for now, the five-hour rapid whole genome sequence can be considered by clinical laboratory leaders, pathologists, and research scientists a new benchmark in genetic sequencing for diagnostic purposes.
Stories like Stanford’s rapid diagnosis of the three-month old patient with epileptic seizures, point to the ultimate value of advances in genomic sequencing technologies.
Diamandis, who also founded Singularity University, a global learning and innovation community that uses exponential technologies to tackle worldwide challenges, according to its website, said, “We’re going to see Apple and Amazon and Google and all the data-driven companies that are in our homes right now become our healthcare providers.”
If this prediction becomes reality, it will bring significant changes in the traditional ways that consumers and patients have selected providers and access healthcare services. In turn, this will require all clinical laboratories and pathology groups to develop business strategies in response to these developments.
Amazon Arrives in Healthcare Markets
Several widely-publicized business initiatives by Amazon, Google, and Apple substantiate these predictions. According to an Amazon blog, healthcare insurers, providers, and pharmacy benefit managers are already operating HIPAA-eligible Amazon Alexa for:
Alexa also enables HIPAA-compliant blood glucose updates as part of the Livongo for Diabetes program. “Our members now have the ability to hear their last blood glucose check by simply asking Alexa,” said Jennifer Schneider, MD, President of Livongo, a digital health company, in a news release.
And Cigna’s “Answers By Cigna” Alexa “skill” gives members who install the option responses to 150 commonly asked health insurance questions, explained a Cigna news release.
The Apple Watch health app also enables people to access medical laboratory test results and vaccination records, and “sync up” information with some hospitals, Business Insider explained.
Virtual Care, a Payer Priority: Survey
Should healthcare providers feel threatened by the tech giants? Not necessarily. However, employers and payers surveyed by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), an employer advocacy organization, said they want to see more virtual care solutions, a news release stated.
“One of the challenges employers face in managing their healthcare costs is that healthcare is delivered locally, and change is not scalable. It’s a market-by-market effort,” said Brian Marcotte, President and CEO of the NBGH, in the news release. “Employers are turning to market-specific solutions to drive meaningful changes in the healthcare delivery system.
“Virtual care solutions bring healthcare to the consumer
rather than the consumer to healthcare,” Marcotte continue. “They continue to
gain momentum as employers seek different ways to deliver cost effective,
quality healthcare while improving access and the consumer experience.”
“If you use Google in the United States to check symptoms,
you’ll get five-million to 11-million hits,” Schwab told The Dark Report.
“Clearly, there’s plenty of talk about symptom checkers, and if you go online
now, you’ll find 350 different electronic applications that will give you
medical advice—meaning you’ll get a diagnosis over the internet. These
applications are winding their way somewhere through the regulatory process.
“The FDA just released a report saying it plans to regulate
internet doctors, not telehealth doctors and not virtual doctors,” he
continued. “Instead, they’re going to regulate machines. This news is
significant because, today, within an hour of receiving emergency care, 45% of
Americans have googled their condition, so the cat is out of the bag as it
pertains to us going online for our medical care.”
Be Proactive, Not Reactive, Health Leaders Say
Healthcare leaders need to work on improving access to primary care, instead of becoming defensive or reactive to tech companies, several healthcare CEOs told Becker’s Hospital Review.
Clinical laboratory leaders are advised to keep an eye on
these virtual healthcare trends and be open to assisting doctors engaged in
telehealth services and online diagnostic activities.
By consolidating information, automating data collection, and harnessing new cloud computing technologies, doctors hope to silence the endless array of alarms and inject efficiency and personalization into the critical care experience
Some healthcare experts believe it is time that intensive care units undergo a workflow redesign to improve the quality of care they deliver, while reducing or eliminating design elements that contribute to errors. Clinical laboratories have a stake in this redesign effort, as they provide medical laboratory tests for patients in ICUs.
Leadership and the medical laboratory team at this Indianapolis, Indiana-based specialty hospital implemented a clinical intelligence system delivered via the cloud
Does clinical use of a business intelligence (BI) system give hospitals and their clinical laboratories a way to add more value to physicians and contribute to improved outcomes? If you ask the clinical laboratory team and leadership at one specialty hospital in the Midwest, their answer is a resounding “yes!”
St. Vincent Seton Specialty Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, was an early adopter of business intelligence at the time it acquired a clinical intelligence system in late 2012. Due to the acuity and patient length-of-stay at this hospital, leadership wanted to do something different and innovative that would contribute to measurable and significant improvement in patient outcomes. (more…)