Healthcare & Pharma , Industries

Pushing the Boundaries of Health Care Innovation

Siemens Healthineers' Dileep Mangsuli Shares Strategies for Accelerated Innovation
Pushing the Boundaries of Health Care Innovation
Dileep Mangsuli, development center head, Siemens Healthineers

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health care system posed unprecedented challenges to several industries. In order to provide easy access to health care, the India innovation hub of Siemens Healthineers worked closely with academia, government and research institutions. It focused on advancing its employees by applying the 3C3B model and invested in emerging technologies like AI/ML and blockchain for health care innovation at scale.

When COVID-19 broke out in 2020, health care institutions were overwhelmed by the surge in hospitalized patients and inadequate resources. The demand for COVID-19 testing kits was huge and health care research and development institutions had to embrace technology for accelerated innovation. For instance, the India development center of Siemens Healthineers in Bengaluru used AI/ML, blockchain and other technologies to produce blood testing kits and other solutions for COVID-19 detection - all produced within short timespans.

"Detection of COVID-19 was a huge challenge. So, we accelerated our innovation and came up with the COVID-19 testing devices in record time. We pushed the boundaries of research and development," says Dileep Mangsuli, development center head, Siemens Healthineers.

COVID-19 Testing Solutions

Teams at Siemens Healthineers devised AI algorithms for X-ray and computed tomography or CT systems that were used for the early detection of COVID-19. Their COVID-19 testing kits and mobile CT solutions were used for blood tests and chest X-ray scans at public COVID-19 centers around China, U.K., Germany, Austria, Poland and Portugal.

AI algorithms applied to CT images can speed up the detection of COVID-19 symptoms and aid follow-up and treatment planning. For instance, AI-enabled analysis of chest scans can reduce the workload of radiologists, who must prioritize and review a large number of patient chest scans.

The AI expert teams at Siemens Healthineers developed two new algorithms, one for CT pneumonia analysis that was newly deployed and ready for trial. The other was an AI-based COVID-19 severity algorithm.

The teams of Siemens Healthineers also deployed container solutions or Mobile CT solutions, a container CT scanning solution, to diagnose and manage COVID-19 patients in high-demand or in isolated areas. Based on the result, the hospital could decide if the patient should be admitted to the intensive care unit or treated in the outpatient department. .

"Our teams in Bengaluru had to work with the global teams to create these algorithms in the shortest time," Mangsuli says.

This was a challenge as most employees were working remotely back then. It required close collaboration with global teams and an ecosystem of health care institutions, academia, startups and government.

Global Innovation Hub

Acknowledged for its innovations, the India development center in Bengaluru is regarded as the global innovation hub or "backbone" of Siemens Healthineers. With its technological innovations, it strives toward advancing health care in India and contributing to the global health care ecosystem. The India development center has 3,000 employees and will add another 1,800 in the next eight years.

The India development center, which contributes through growth, execution and IT infrastructure, works closely with global Siemens Healthineers teams to develop solutions and algorithms for treatment planning and proton therapy treatment. The teams develop AI algorithms for detecting lung nodules, lung cancer and brain cancer.

Employing Cutting-Edge Technology

The use of cutting-edge technologies helped accelerate innovation during the pandemic. Siemens Healthineers depends heavily on technology innovation for growth and to meet the requirements for quality and timely patient care.

"We have all the technology teams under one roof at the Bengaluru development center. These teams are building technologies on almost all platforms. For instance, at a system level, there are teams building system solutions on digital services," Mangsuli says.

The workforce is divided into diagnostic, imaging and digital groups that work on projects related to magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans, molecular imaging, and blood and urine diagnostic tests. The teams in Bengaluru are also working on the next generation of MR technologies.

Certain groups also work on cardiovascular solutions. One example of their work is the utilization of AI for robotic surgery and navigation. The solution assists paramedics in installing a stent in the right place, without the need to have a high degree of skills for this intrinsic task.

Mangsuli informs that the groups have capabilities in areas such as digital and software and also on a system level and clinical level. Doctors who are part of the organization also help in producing solutions.

Siemens Healthineers owns 17 hospitals in India; some of which are multi-specialty centers that provide end-to-end cancer treatments. In 2021, the company acquired Varian Medical Systems, a radiation oncology treatments and software maker based in Palo Alto, California. Varian manufactures medical devices such as linear accelerators and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, radiosurgery, proton therapy and brachytherapy.

Skills and Talent

Adopting disruptive technologies like AI/ML and blockchain is crucial for medtech innovation. Apart from technological skills, people also need to have an understanding of the clinical domain. For instance, if developers know what a surgery involves, they could develop critical solutions that resolve challenges encountered in the operating theatre. That requires medical exposure and familiarity with operation procedures. Siemens Healthineers trains its employees through partnerships with hospitals.

"Our people get to be a part of a surgery now. They observe the surgery, see how a stent is being inserted or how bypass surgery is done. And that gives them a better understanding of how to use technology for these operations," Mangsuli says.

Partnerships with academia and research institutions also complement in-house skills. This is done through fellowships with institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.

"We bring in fellowship students who are working at IISc or the IITs, and they work with our teams during their fellowship. Some become part of our organization once they complete their fellowships," Mangsuli says.

3C3B Model

Mangsuli acknowledges that finding talent is a challenge, and to address this, they adopted the 3C3B model.

"We look at what is critical to the organization and the capability and capacity of a candidate. [We ask] how do you build capability to maintain a level of capacity in the organization? And then you look at building the organization through build, borrow and buy," he says.

Mansuli informs that the India development center also puts a lot of emphasis on diversity within teams, which includes women and regional diversity.

Apart from recruiting, Siemens Healthineers also focuses on talent retention; culture plays an important part here.

"We foster a culture of training people on both technical and process skills. And we have a strong mentorship program for our employees. In addition, we rotate people in different roles and that makes the job more interesting for them," Mangsuli adds.

As part of the learning culture, the company has a central varsity program for learning called DC-varsity development.

"Today, people are not really looking for a job; they are looking for a career. And they want to make sure they have good content available. They want to make sure that they are in the right culture," Mangsuli says.

Key Learnings

This is an example of how a health care research institution collaborates with various global and regional entities for innovation at speed.

The key takeaways for CIOs and business leaders are:

  • Innovation can only happen with collaborations in a broader ecosystem involving academia, government and research institutions.
  • Use the latest technologies to build products and services at scale.
  • People are as important as technology and innovations. Create models similar to the 3C3B model to search for talent and to retain people.
  • Develop employees' skills and don't just focus on vendors and technology deployments.

About the Author

Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira

Sr. Director - Editorial, ISMG

Pereira has nearly three decades of journalism experience. He is the former editor of CHIP, InformationWeek and CISO MAG. He has also written for The Times of India and The Indian Express.




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