Medical device leader Medtronic joins race to bring AI to health care
Medtronic, the world’s largest medical device company, is significantly increasing its investments into AI and other technologies, in what it says is an effort to help the health care industry catch up with other industries.
While many other industries have embraced technology, health care has been slower. Studies reveal that only 20% of consumers would trust AI-generated health care advice.
VentureBeat interviewed Torod Neptune, Medtronic’s senior vice president and chief communications officer, and Gio Di Napoli, president of Medtronic’s Gastrointestinal Unit, to discuss the company’s vision of the future of health care technology.
Digital transformation in health care
Neptune spoke about Medtronic’s transition beyond traditional med tech to more innovative solutions using AI. He noted that health care technology — through its unusual scale and ability to harness data analytics, algorithms, and intelligence — plays a significant role in solving big problems in the AI field.
Artificial intelligence increases the detection of early cancer by 14% compared to normal colonoscopy, Di Napoli said. This is very important because “every percentage of increase in detection reduces the risk of cancer by 2%,” he said.
Building on Medtronic’s medical devices already serving millions (like its miniature pacemaker, smart insulin pump, and more), the company’s plan to make health care more predictive and personal led to the development of GI Genius Intelligent Endoscopy Module (granted USFDA de novo clearance on April 9, 2021, and launched on April 12, 2021).
Above: Medtronic says its GI Genius Intelligent Endoscopy Module is the first-to-market computer-aided polyp detection system powered by artificial intelligence.
The GI Genius module is the first and only artificial intelligence system for colonoscopy, according to Medtronic, assisting physicians in detecting precancerous growths and potentially addressing 19 million colonoscopies annually. The company says the module serves as a vigilant second observer, using sophisticated AI-powered technology to detect and highlight the presence of precancerous lesions with a visual marker in real time.
Investing in innovative health care
Medtronic has launched more than 190 health care technology products in the past 12 months. It also invests $2.5 billion yearly on research and development (R&D). Medtronic’s CEO, Geoff Martha, recently announced a 10% boost in R&D spending by FY22.
This enormous investment, the largest R&D increase in company history, underscores Medtronic’s focus on innovation and technology.
The company says it plans to expand the number of patients it serves each year, with the goal being 85 million by FY25.
According to Di Napoli, “AI is here. And it’s here to stay.”
A new era of health care
Speaking further about health care technology, Di Napoli says, “I can tell from my personal experience within the gastrointestinal business that there is a need for training and getting to know artificial intelligence as a partner and not as an enemy. And I think it’s critical for companies like ours to keep collecting data to improve our algorithms, to improve how our customers decide based on this data, and also improve patients outcomes with this.”
Although data collection comes with security concerns and privacy issues, Di Napoli says that the company is in constant communication with the FDA to understand the process to put in place to protect sensitive data for the future.
Neptune believes that technology and data drive patient empowerment in a much more significant way, based on more comfortable user adoption over the last 20 months. He said, “I think the pandemic has enabled more comfort and consideration, and there’s a global shift and willingness to engage and adopt new technological solutions.”
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