Opinion: On the Cusp of Cardiology Revolution

Why I believe the next few years will change the game

By Al Lojewski

I've spent 38 years developing technology dedicated to cardiac care. The tech I’m keenly closest to, cardiovascular ultrasound (CVUS), will forever hold a special place in my heart. Today, I see an exciting new chapter ahead and opportunities across the entire Cardiology filed. When I began my career at Hewlett Packard (HP) in the early eighties, at that time, both the company and I were just getting started on our ultrasound journey. I had incredible opportunities there including the introduction of the technologies, Color Flow, TEE, contrast and harmonic imaging, which put HP on the med tech leader map. In 1998, I moved on for a new challenge at GE Healthcare. My job was to help drive the market, business and customer connections to GE Cardiovascular Ultrasound (CVUS) and build a branded portfolio of GE Healthcare ultrasound products. The goal was to expand GE Healthcare’s cardiology program globally. I did that by creating the Vivid brand, and with the technology team at GE Vingmed, we succeeded. With customer feedback, we brought the product line to a leading position globally. From there, I went on to lead the CVUS business for the last ten years which grew into the nearly half a billion dollar global product portfolio it is today. I look back on my early days with gratitude and pride knowing we helped pave the way for cardiovascular ultrasound to become what it is today, a leading diagnostic imaging tool. I’ve watched as it grew from its simple beginnings of just 2D imaging and Doppler to become the ubiquitous, handheld, portable, pocket-sized, 4D technology used to combat cardiovascular disease, the number one killer globally. Cardiovascular disease already accounts for more than 17.6 million deaths per year and is expected to grow to 23.6 million by 2030. [i] When you spend nearly four decades of your life deeply embedded in a specific field, you sense when something big is coming. Now is one of those times. Ask any cardiologist to list the challenges that prevent them from caring for their patient the way they want to, and you may get a list the size of a CVS receipt. The challenges of managing an overabundance of data, growing documentation requirements and disconnected systems are compounded by increasing pressure to get patients home sooner, reduce readmission rates, maximize reimbursement and most importantly improve patient outcomes. While this is the case for much of medicine, I believe cardiologists and cardiology departments are setting standards for the future of healthcare. Patients increasingly have a combination of diseases and comorbidities, like diabetes and heart failure with their cardiac challenges. This means companies like GE Healthcare must look beyond our traditional product lines and take a more comprehensive view of the cardiac patient across the continuum of care. By doing so, we help clinicians treat the patient – not just the disease. We’re creating and organizing our cardiology technologies into solutions by care models that break through and solve the challenges of today. This is my new job at GE Healthcare. Yes, after 38 years, I have another job dedicated to the heart! One of the ways we can do this is by using our Edison platform to build Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered technologies that seamlessly integrate to help doctors make sound diagnostic decisions and operate at peak efficiency while delivering high-quality care. So, instead of looking at just one diagnostic test result like ultrasound, we are combining the entire diagnostic and therapeutic patient journey to better treat conditions such as heart failure or AFib. We plan to help clinicians look at the entire patient condition and create a care pathway that supports the patient across the entire journey from detection and diagnosis to therapies and follow-up. We’re also looking for new ways to partner with customers. Just ask the team at Aurora St. Luke’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where we created a structural heart program that has boosted revenues by doubling the number of minimally invasive transcatheter valve repairs (TAVR) utilizing our Hybrid Operating Rooms (HOR). The impact of the program has resulted in these clinical, operational and economical outcomes.[ii][iii] CLINICAL OUTCOMES Increased Patient Volume: From three to six or seven cases per day (25-30 procedures per week per room), 100% volume increase Improved capacity enables accepting more referred patients OPERATIONAL OUTCOMES Increased Efficiency: 50-75% turnover time improvements Enabled Productivity Increase: 50% staff reduction in the HOR FINANCIAL OUTCOMES Delivered Financial Impact: >200% TAVR/TAVI’s CM improvement in 9 months post Hybrid OR installation; >1000 TAVR to date #1 globally By bringing the right products, partnerships and people together, GE Healthcare is taking a more holistic view of the patient journey. We hope our approach can help you care for patients the way you had always imagined. To those concerned about the challenges with healthcare, I would say take heart – change is coming. We can succeed if we walk to this new beat of innovation together. [i] Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2019 At-a-Glance: American Heart Association [ii] These are the results of one institution, individual results may vary based on a variety of factors at each institution
Al Lojewski is General Manager Cardiology Solutions at GE Healthcare. This article originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Al @Iojewski1