1896 – GE builds electrical equipment for the production of X-rays and demonstrates the use of stereoscopic "roentgen" pictures, for diagnosing bone fractures and locating foreign objects in the body.
GE Healthcare have a long history of key pioneering innovations that have consistently led the way in the radiology market.
Nowadays Rontgen's discovery paves the way for GE Healthcare to achieve remarkable breakthroughs in ultra-low dose for CT imaging
The discovery of X-rays or Röntgen rays in 1895, set in motion a period in GE Healthcare’s history in which the imaging of the human body became associated with GE’s brand of innovation and pushing of the boundaries. Röntgen’s discovery reached a pinnacle in the 1970’s where the power of X-rays fully came into its own and GE became the first X-ray equipment leader to make a strong move into the X-ray computed tomography (CT) market.
GE began an in-house first-generation technology research project in 1974, designing a mammography research prototype. In 1975 GE introduced the fast-scan, rotate-only CT system. In 1976 this was followed up with the first installation of what went on to be known as the CT 8800. Today— thanks to the power of X-rays— GE’s Healthcare unit is recognized in the radiology sector as one of the world’s most innovative maker of medical-imaging machines, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and cardiac tomography scanners.
Now in the current climate, medical imaging needs innovation to meet current challenges and demands such as: the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act; technical fee cuts related to the Affordable Care Act; the global recession; radiation dose concerns; and an unmanageable growth in healthcare data in which imaging has been pinpointed as a contributor.
For Remy Klausz, Principal Engineer at GE Healthcare’s Breast Care division, the escalation of ‘big data’ is one challenge that GE Healthcare is facing with confidence. “The technology to deal with the increasing amount of data will evolve to enable its storage, I’m confident of that,” he said. “It is not a technological issue but an investment and development issue.”
Healthcare providers are now looking at cloud computing as an alternative, low-cost solution for accessing, storing and sharing medical images between medical facilities. GE Healthcare have offered web-based PACS SaaS solutions in a cloud computing architecture for a number of years now. In 2011 it installed its first full cloud PACS installation in Paris. It’s Centricity* PACS Web solution, which has been adopted by nine hospitals, uses the programme’s cloud-based RIS, PACS, and archiving platform. Since then, more than 20 additional hospitals have followed suit. To date more than 1 million examinations, representing more than 42 terabytes, have already been stored on the platform.
Radiation Dosage – A New Perspective
“Concerns with radiation will always exist,” commented Gerhard Brunst, Clinical Leader (DXR) at GE Healthcare. “The pressure to minimize the amount of radiation per exam is something the healthcare sector will always need to consider as part of the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle. Advances in technology have helped imaging technology use less radiation dose than previous generations of systems. There are examples where radiation doses have been able to be reduced significantly over the years for the same image quality.”
GE Healthcare has been a strong supporter of the ALARA principle by incorporating design elements aimed at reducing radiation exposure and also enabling the recording and monitoring of radiation doses during imaging. “It has been the philosophy at GE Healthcare that its research and development into radiology equipment incorporates the use of X-rays that are as low a dose as is reasonably achievable.” added Klausz.
It’s ‘Lower Dose by Design’ initiative includes design innovations such as OptiDose, ASiR*, DoseCheck, and Veo*. DoseWatch* is GE Healthcare’s radiation management program that uses data acquired from imaging systems. DoseWatch retrieves, tracks, reports, and monitors the radiation dose delivered to patients during an examination. DoseWatch can be used with different imaging modalities from different manufacturers and can be adopted in any imaging program.
A Bright Future for Medical Imaging
Advances in medical imaging are frequently complemented by advances in communications network. Telemedicine has been touted as an example of how medical imaging and telecom technologies complement each other by decreasing healthcare delivery costs and increasing access to expert care that might otherwise be unavailable, reducing geographical barriers and overhead. According to a new report by Companies & Markets the global telemedicine monitoring market reached a value of $736 million in 2011 and is poised to increase to $2.5 billion by 2018.
“The advantages of implementing a telemedicine solution to aid a small rural hospital in diagnoses for example are obvious,” commented Brunst. “Telemedicine doesn’t require a senior healthcare professional to be physically present and there is also the advantage of receiving a second opinion relatively quickly. Telemedicine opens up the possibility of an emerging paradigm that draws on global medical expertise rather than local.”
X-rays in Personalized Medicine.
Molecular imaging—the ability to look at cellular organ function and metabolism—has often been touted as a key to shifting the healthcare model from population-based to personalized medicine. Through the use of positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), there is the possibility of monitoring the inner biological workings of diseases before and during treatment. So physicians would be able to give a cancer patient an imaging agent before and after the first round of chemotherapy and call upon molecular imaging to find out if the tumor has changed. This approach to patient treatment could allow the delivery of personalized therapies in a more cost-effective manner.
This ambition to redefine medical imaging’s role forms the core of GE Healthcare’s partnership with University of Wisconsin-Madison. In September 2012, GE Healthcare committed $32.9 million over a decade for an imaging research facility at UW School of Medicine and Public Health that would focus on applications of medical imaging such as personalized medicine. GE Healthcare’s investment has been set aside for equipment, researchers and research support with the imaging center expected to be fully functional by early 2014.
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