Here’s How Tech is Reshaping Medicine 

Here’s How Tech Is Reshaping Medicine
AI-assisted colonoscopies are one way Samitivej Hospital is using technology to improve the health experience for patients

Technology and innovation are improving the overall health experience. In Thailand, Samitivej Hospital continues to lead these efforts by focusing on preventive care.  

Disruption is synonymous with technology. Numerous industries over the past decade were upended almost overnight due to innovation. That approach doesn’t necessarily work for medicine, though. Patients and doctors are wary of the impact new technologies may have as they do not wish to take unnecessary risks with their health and well-being.  

For Samitivej Hospital, balancing these concerns with the potential of technology to reshape medicine was crucial. The key was to adapt before disruption could even happen.  

“When it comes to technology, you want to adapt before you are disrupted. It was necessary for us to bring technology into healthcare in meaningful ways as it can improve several areas, such as preventative medicine. We don’t want to wait for a person to become sick,” Dr Parit Plainkum, Assistant Hospital Director at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, says. “A lot of the focus on medical innovations goes toward sick care which is extremely important. For Samitvej, it is equally important to develop risk care, early care and self care. We want people to be empowered to take care of themselves and be invested in their health.”  

The technological journey at Samitvej Hospital has seen it implement and explore a number of exciting innovations. In 2019, Samitvej became the first private hospital in Thailand to launch a telemedicine platform. Artificial Intelligence (AI) assisted colonoscopy using the EndoBrain-EYE and EndoBrain programs aiding in the diagnosis of colorectal polyps were put into use in 2021. 

More recently, an emphasis has been placed on risk factor prediction and genetic testing. Additionally, the hospital is exploring baby cry identification technology, AI-assisted imaging and augmented reality surgery, among other innovations.    

“Technology has the greatest impact in preventing individuals from getting sick. For example, the hospital currently uses predictive algorithms to forecast when individuals may suffer cardiovascular event or stroke. This is integrated into the hospital information system so a doctor can identify increased risk,” Dr Parit states. “Early detection makes it possible for individuals to take corrective actions.” 

Meanwhile, improvements in genetic testing allow individuals to have a better understanding of their health. While a person likely knows their family history, this information may not always provide the whole story.  

“Treatment protocols are for the average person and not personalised. Genetic testing early can allow an individual to make more informed treatment decisions,” Dr Parit explains. “Interestingly, it can also allow people who may have a family history of cancer or cardiovascular issues to consider preventative measures. You and your doctor can take specific actions using this extra information.”  

The use of predictive algorithms and genetic testing are just a few of the innovations reshaping the relationship many people have with medicine. Instead of being reactive, patients can be proactive in making health-related decisions.     

“The hospital’s efforts and whatever the future may hold for medical technology are all part of Samitvej’s commitment to helping people live their best. Technology is vital in improving not only a person’s quality of life but the quality of care doctors are able to provide,” Dr Parit reports.  

The Samitivej Liver and Digestive Institute is exploring ways to improve preventative care by using technology

AI partnerships  

There has been a concern in some quarters that AI will replace doctors one day. Dr Parit insists that won’t be the case as humans remain essential to the medical experience. Simply put, there are some things humans can do that innovation is unable to replicate.  

“AI is not something that can be used as a standalone solution. For starters, people don’t trust AI by itself. Second, AI may have hard skills, but it lacks the soft skills, such as empathy, that a doctor has,” Dr. Parit says. “It is important to think of AI as a tool that allows doctors to solve more complex problems, reduce the trial-and-error period, bring better care to patients and lower costs.”  

Instead of seeing AI as a potential replacement for doctors, it should be viewed as a partner to improve their accuracy, speed and quality of care.  

“The relationship between doctors and AI is a partnership. Having them work together is more effective than one trying to do something without the other,” Dr Parit states. “Those in the medical field who are not leveraging AI will be left behind. The key is understanding how it can be most effectively used by doctors as a tool to improve patient quality of life.”  

An example of this in action at Samitivej Hospital is the use of AI technology to assist in colon cancer detection and surveillance. Innovations, such as the EndoBrain-EYE and EndoBrain programs, alert doctors to potential complications during colonoscopies, either in real time or during recordings. 

In addition to this, AI is also being used to analyse imaging from MRIs and other scans. It can assist radiologists in locating issues by identifying patterns from similar patients which allows them to make a more informed diagnosis.  

Choosing the right technology 

Dr Parit notes that technology can also play a notable role in improving productivity. It is allowing hospitals to work more effectively and make more accurate diagnoses which ultimately leads to better disease prevention. However, the process is not as simple as picking one, running a test and implementing it. Choosing the right technology requires Samitivej Hospital to carry out a comprehensive, three-step approach.  

“The first step is identifying the disease or area a technology can assist with. Ultimately, we want to focus on one of two areas. First are high-intensity diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer, that have higher mortality rates. It’s important to reduce these. The second area is high-volume diseases that are common. Solving these would allow us to care for more people,” Dr Parit details.  

He continues, “Once a technology has been selected, it is tested by doctors who can gain an understanding of how it works. It can take 9-12 months to go from consideration to pilot project. If this phase goes well, the technology will be approved for use in the hospital, and it is then integrated into our systems.”  

It takes approximately two years for a technology to be fully implemented at Samitivej Hospital, although the timeline varies depending on what is being considered. There are quite a few obstacles that must be overcome during the process with the largest coming from doctors. 

“The most difficult challenge is to get doctors to trust the technology. They have the most rigorous standards. They will not use something until they are sure it works. At Samitvej, doctors are not required to use innovations until they feel comfortable with them,” Dr Parit points out.  

Waiting for a technology focusing on a specific issue to be developed can be restrictive at times. The hospital is in constant communication with all stakeholders to better understand their pain points. To address these in a timely manner, Samitivej Hospital Group launched an innovation and venture arm, DHV (Digital Health Venture), to develop customer-centric healthcare-related solutions. 

“DHV allows us to drive change through innovation. It allows us to develop in-house capabilities in a startup-like setting. Importantly, it gives us a platform to fix the challenges we feel needs to be fixed as opposed to waiting for a solution,” Dr Parit says. We have labs to test changes inside our ecosystem. We can even scale up to unlock collaboration with universities or make the innovations widely available.” 

Fact Box 

  • Both predictive algorithms and genetic testing can allow for early detection of cardiovascular diseases and other issues 
  • AI-assisted colonoscopies aiding in the diagnosis of colorectal polyps have been in use at Samitivej since 2021 
  • AI is unlike to replace doctors and should be viewed as a partner to improve their accuracy, speed and quality of care 
  • Samitivej launched an innovation and venture arm, DHV, to develop customer-centric healthcare-related solutions 
  • It takes approximately two years for a new technology to be fully implemented at Samitivej Hospital 
  • Samitvej looks to develop innovations covering risk care, early care and self care in addition to treatment-focused solutions 

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