Philips and Augusta University Partner to Improve Patient Care: Interview with Philips CMO

By | November 7, 2018

A few months ago, we heard about how Philips and Augusta University Health are working together in a long-term partnership for the co-development of clinical solutions such as a hybrid operating room. To learn more about the partnership as well as the unique, hybrid operating room into which multiple technologies and procedures have been combined, Medgadget heard from Dr. Joe Frassica, Philips’ CMO and Head of Research for the Americas.

Michael Batista, Medgadget: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us about the recent news regarding Philips’ partnership with Augusta University Health. To begin, what led to and motivated this partnership, what is “unique” about the partnership, and why is Augusta University Health well-aligned with Philips?

Dr. Joe Frassica: Augusta University Health – Philips’ first long-term strategic partnership (LSP), and is a great example of how both Philips and our partners can benefit from this model. This relationship is a departure from traditional client-vendor relationships and allows for co-creating of clinical solutions. Instead, this is a true partnership where we collaborate to understand Augusta’s needs, and work together to develop a game plan that will enable them to meet their patient care goals.

Augusta University Health (formally Georgia Regents Health) was searching for an innovative way to adopt enterprise-wide solutions for the health system, which would allow for improved patient care and outcomes, while managing costs for this public network. Not only where they industry pioneers, becoming the first LSP in North America by signing a fifteen-year agreement to work alongside Philips to improve patient care, they have realized impressive results by engaging in this model. In the last five years, AU Health has:

  • Upgraded their diagnostic imaging systems to digital systems, including 800 devices in the first year of the partnership
  • Experienced a 39% increase of the number of patients they can conduct imaging exams on
  • Achieved millions in savings thank to better procurement practices
  • Worked alongside Philips to redesign their children’s hospital
  • Co-developed innovations in biosensors for lower cost settings
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Five years later, we continue to innovate and develop best practices for improved diagnosis and treatment, including the hybrid operating room (OR), which gives Augusta the ability to diagnose confidently and treat lung cancer the same day in a single OR visit.

Medgadget: The press release mentions that the partnership allows for the “co-creation of clinical solutions.” What does this mean in practice? How do Philips and Augusta University Health work together?

Dr. Frassica: Philips work very closely to understand both the patient and population health challenges in the community Augusta serves and provides Augusta with early access to the latest in Philips technologies. Through a joint Philips and AU Health oversight committee, we look at what solutions will have the biggest impact on their care goals, map those to the latest Philips innovations, and look at how we can co-develop programs and solutions accordingly. Currently, we are implementing this multi-phased approach on biosensors. We are through the first phase of understanding how our biosensor technology can help Augusta tightly monitor patients in a lower cost setting, such as the general ward. This not only helps to keep patients out of higher cost settings such as the ICU, but it also gives staff access to the information they need to intervene before a patient’s condition becomes acute. We’re also looking at how the biosensors can integrate into the system and helping to identify which patients would benefit most from this type of monitoring, as well as how this model could apply to other care settings.

Medgadget: Shifting focus to the hybrid operating room, where did the idea for this collaboration opportunity come about?  What is Philips’ contribution to the hybrid operating room?

Dr. Frassica: As a global leader in image guided therapy (IGT) systems, Philips plays a very important role in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of care. Through continuous innovation in areas such as imaging and navigation, we have been able to improve existing treatments and make new treatments possible. The number of image-guided treatments performed is growing rapidly and these treatments are now becoming more complex and diverse. At the same time, we see enormous cost pressures on healthcare systems, hence the need for more efficient treatments and optimization of resource utilization. We see strong growth in the combination of surgery and image-guided treatment, performed in hybrid operating rooms, that combine the best of both worlds. Minimally invasive procedures have proven to improve clinical outcomes for the patient and lead to significant reductions in the length-of-stay of the patient in the hospital.

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The hybrid OR brings together multiple techniques in a single space – navigational bronchoscopy to locate tumors in the patient’s lungs, percutaneous biopsy for small sections of a lesion to determine if it’s cancerous, fiducial marker placement to mark the tumor and ensure the entire mass is removed, and video-assisted thorascopic surgery, which enables the use of a tiny video camera to operate inside a patient’s chest cavity.  In the hybrid OR, all three techniques are assisted by intra-operative cone beam CT imaging, which captures images of the inside of a patient’s chest and allows the surgeon to see the tumor and form the best surgical strategy to biopsy or remove it safely.

Medgadget: Why is the hybrid operating room an improvement upon the capabilities of a standard operating room?

Dr. Frassica: When it comes to surviving cancer, early detection and treatment could be the key to a patient’s survival. The hybrid OR offers a revolutionary alternative to the traditional approach to surgery and represents a paradigm shift in thoracic surgery. The hybrid OR combines surgery and interventional treatment so that more minimally invasive procedures can be performed in one space using image guidance. Additionally, with the clinician able to do immediate imaging studies, they can use the same anesthesia to do biopsies and perform procedures, which not only allows for a faster diagnosis and treatment, but also reduces costs.

In the case of Augusta, Dr. Carsten Schroeder, a thoracic surgical oncologist, used to take six weeks just to get a diagnosis. Now with the hybrid OR, Dr. Schroeder can tailor the patient’s care in one day instead of having to schedule multiple follow-up appointments. He’s able to do bio-markers, biopsies and plan further interventions, without having to move the patient from the OR for these imaging studies in order to wait for results. In addition to shorter times between diagnosis and treatment, the surgeon can also detect smaller tumors in a patient’s lungs, ones that would previously have to grow larger or denser before being caught. This truly makes care more seamless and help reduce costs, while improving patient care and outcomes. In the years to come, we may see that traditional open surgery will cease to exist and minimally invasive surgery will become the standard of care.

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Medgadget: Finally, are there any other collaborations that Philips and Augusta University Health are working on, as part of the partnership, that you can share?

Dr. Frassica: As we continue to innovative alongside Augusta, we are looking into other areas to do minimally invasive surgery. For example, the treatment of stroke or of aneurysms in the brain, restricting the blood supply to a tumor and apply local chemotherapy for liver cancer, or spine surgery with placement of screws for spine fusion.

Flashback: Philips Partners with Augusta University Health on Hybrid OR for Diagnosis and Treatment of Lung CA…

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