GE Healthcare Recruits Hungarian AI to Support Medical Infrastructure


Attila Ferik

GE Healthcare leaders tell the Budapest Business Journal how the Edison platform, named for the company’s storied inventor-founder, aims to be a flagship for medical innovations in Hungary.

The last of seven children, Thomas Alva Edison had a world-record 1,093 patents issued to him in the United States and an additional 1,500 worldwide. In his early years, Edison would sell his patents to raise some capital. One of the most notable was the Quadruplex telegraph, which he invented in 1874, sold to Western Union for USD 10,000, an impressive sum in its time.

Edison saved enough money to turn his innovations into a business and founded the Edison General Electric Company, which would later become General Electric (GE). A century and a half later on this side of the Atlantic, Edison’s zeitgeist seems to linger on. 

GE Healthcare has just launched an artificial intelligence research project at its Hungarian research and development center in Szeged, 170 km southeast of Budapest. The HUF 3.35 billion project, part-financed by the Hungarian government, aims at sparking AI-based solutions developed for global markets.

“Hungarian knowledge has played an important role in the fight against the coronavirus worldwide, and this announcement reaffirms that Hungarian knowledge in the field of medicine and diagnostics is globally competitive,” Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said when the project was announced on January 14.

Globally, healthcare infrastructures are overburdened by a lack of millions of professionals, a shortage thought likely to grow further to around 18 million by 2030, according to World Health Organization predictions. The hope, however, is that dynamic growth of innovative and intelligent solutions may serve as a remedy to the most severe symptoms of today’s infrastructures.

One area that will inevitably boost healthcare efficiency is the predictive analytics software solutions that run on GE Healthcare’s Edison platform.

Predictive Future

“Predictive solutions will provide a new approach to analytics compared to the currently available systems. While Business Intelligence (BI) and Clinical Decision Support System (CDSS) solutions offer retrospective and descriptive analytics, GE Healthcare Hungary’s solution would serve predictive, forward-looking functions based on already available data and trained artificial intelligence models,” Attila Ferik, senior director of software engineering at GE Healthcare, tells the BBJ.

Such predictions could well be vital; patient no-shows cause a significant financial burden to healthcare institutions, as medical equipment and staff are allocated unnecessarily, and capacities cannot be planned efficiently.

GE Healthcare Hungary’s new solution would not only predict these missed care opportunities but also signal the expected load in real-time with the necessary resource requirements and possible additional capacities. This could deliver not just a financial advantage, but also reduced waiting lists.

Beyond predictions, AI can play a significant role in diagnosing. “We believe that the adoption of digital health technologies, from workflow management to AI-based solutions embedded on healthcare devices can support healthcare providers to deliver better outcomes to patients,” Endre Ascsillán, vice president at GE CEE, tells the BBJ.

Hungary brings significant knowledge to this arena. “GE believes in partnership and common growth, and we are proud of our partnership that spans more than three decades and has enabled Hungary to become a key GE location in Europe. Hungary is well known for its digital capabilities worldwide and we can trustfully build on the Hungarian investment-friendly economy and the innovation capabilities of the highly qualified researchers and developers available locally,” Ascsillán adds.

GE Healthcare opened its first software development center in Hungary in 2000. Today it employs around 400 software engineers, who work in the forefront of GE Healthcare’s Edison initiative.

“We are proud that the biggest GE Healthcare Data Science team in Europe is located in Budapest and Szeged; all high-level professionals with a diverse background, including programmer mathematicians, physicians, software engineers, biomedical engineers—even medical doctors,” the vice president says.

Endre Ascsillán

Strong Relationships

Over the years, GE has built strong relationships with its academic and clinical partners in Hungary, across Europe and in the United States, who are actively involved in projects, product and algorithm validation and testing processes.

“This cooperation provides multidisciplinary teams with broad access to data and clinical expertise enabling our teams to develop revolutionary healthcare products and services in Hungary to global markets,” Ascsillán explains.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated existing intelligent and dynamic research trends and highlighted the need to build an intelligence-based health system.

“What would have previously taken the industry years to implement is now taking months only. When we talk about AI, we talk about big data. The amount of data that is being developed in healthcare is just enormous, and AI-related research has the potential to process all this data to enable precision health, that helps healthcare professionals to deliver more precise and efficient care,” Ferik adds.

Data, AI and connectivity are central to helping those on the front lines deliver intelligently efficient care. Digital solutions based on AI in can increase healthcare efficiency, improve patient outcomes, and expand access to care, the software engineering director insists.

“Let me give you two examples of GE Healthcare’s great solutions to support the fight against COVID-19, where our Hungarian teams have significantly contributed to their success. The recently announced industry-first AI algorithm developed in Hungary helps clinicians assess the endotracheal tube (ETT) placements for critically ill COVID-19 patients,” he says.

“Another great example is our Command Center technology, that is using AI and advanced analytics to help coordinate patient care and is used by more than 200 hospitals around the world. Systems give real-time data on critical information, such as availability of hospital beds, of the right staff required, of available equipment, directing ambulances to hospitals where there is appropriate availability,” Ferik adds.

It seems the future of AI-driven healthcare may well sit right here in Hungary.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 29, 2021.


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