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The Singapore Sling: Tapping into the island state’s strengths in R&D

Many countries in Asia boast longer than average life expectancies, with residents living well into their 80s and beyond. It’s estimated that by 2040, 16% of the region’s population will be older than 65 – more than double the 7.8% share in 2015[1]. Living a longer life is a positive outcome of a healthy lifestyle, but this massive increase in lifespans is posing unique challenges for Asia’s healthcare systems.

That’s why the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and GE Healthcare are collaborating to support research and development in advanced medical technologies that will deliver sustainable healthcare solutions for patients in Asia and throughout the world.

In December 2014, A*STAR and GE Healthcare signed a five-year technology research and development collaboration agreement to co-develop the next generation of medical technologies.

A*STAR is Singapore’s leading public-sector agency that spearheads economic-oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. It collaborates with partners in both the public and private sectors to bridge the gap between academia and industry and supports research that improves outcomes in healthcare, urban living and sustainability.

“The burden of chronic diseases and cancer is increasing in Asia due to lifestyle changes and an aging population. Medical technology can play an important role in helping to address the healthcare challenges we face today,” says Dr Benjamin Seet, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council.

Dr Seet adds, “Over the years, A*STAR has developed strong capabilities in multi-disciplinary research, and is well-positioned to work with our partners to push the boundaries in health care. With GE, we tap on complementary strengths to develop impactful solutions that enable clinicians to work more efficiently; and to improve patient experience and care.”

One of the new solutions jointly developed by the A*STAR and GE Healthcare teams improves the PET scan procedure using high-performance computing, enabling faster scans and shorter waiting times for patients. The feature involves a more streamlined digital PET image reconstruction that shaves approximately 15 minutes off a typical workflow of almost 40 minutes.

Image courtesy of RadLink Asia

This new reconstruction algorithm is now integrated into GE Healthcare’s digital Discovery™ MI PET/CT system. In August 2017, RadLink Asia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fullerton Health, installed the Discovery MI PET/CT system. RadLink is the leading private diagnostic and molecular imaging service provider in Singapore and was the first facility in the region to install this technology.

“As the demand for healthcare rises, RadLink is committed to investing and improving in technology to deliver world-class diagnostic services to patients and physicians in Singapore and Southeast Asia,” says Royston Lek, Country Managing Director of Fullerton Health Singapore, “We want to invest in the newest innovation, which is digital PET/CT.”

Since installing the Discovery MI, RadLink has reduced scan time from about 30 minutes to just 10 minutes, allowing them to increase patient flow by 20%.

“Since this scanner is faster, we get to scan more patients. It increases patient comfort because scan time is shorter and there is also lesser incidence of repeat scans due to patient movement”, says Sheryl Ann Del Valle, Chief Nuclear Medicine Technologist at RadLink PET and Cardiac Imaging Center.

Del Valle says it takes about roughly 10-12 minutes for a whole-body FDG PET scan, and this leads to cost savings as well. Because scan time is faster, it allows them to maximise their dose potential specially for those scans using short half-life tracers.

Watch the video to know more about the process of undergoing a Digital PET/CT scan at RadLink Asia.

About the partnership

The partnership reinforces GE’s commitment to Singapore and its collaborations with local R&D performers.

The co-innovations are focused on three areas: patient monitoring, Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). They also signal GE’s investment in developing medical innovations that are clinically and economically relevant to meeting the world’s key healthcare challenges. This collaboration combines the engineering strength and technological prowess of both teams to build the future of healthcare together.

Leveraging GE Healthcare’s expertise in medical and information technologies, and A*STAR’s capabilities in multi-disciplinary research, data analytics and high-performance computing, both parties have developed technological advancements in imaging diagnostics and patient monitoring. In addition to the Discovery MI, new technologies have been built into GE Healthcare’s products across a range of different patient care equipment and applications.

GE Healthcare and A*STAR are now developing digital solutions such as a diagnostic imaging system for Parkinson’s Disease and advanced capabilities for surgery motion tracking. The teams are also looking at optimizing the image reconstruction algorithm in a current GE CT scanner that eliminates image distortions caused by metal artifacts. In addition, they’re working on a technological platform that supports stroke treatment decisions and wireless communication technologies to improve remote patient monitoring.

“With the positive results that have been achieved to date, GE Healthcare and A*STAR will be discussing the next phase of our collaboration. This will continue to define how health services are delivered,” says Dr Seet.

 

[1] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/05/30/commentary/world-commentary/making-asias-aging-populations/#.WyGF7IpKhPZ

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