Vivek Kanade, executive director of Siemens Healthineers India, talks about how India is emerging as an important R&D hub for the company and how innovations are helping tackle the pandemic. Excerpts:
What kind of traction have you seen in the medical devices and the medical technology segments since the Covid-19 pandemic struck?
India faces a shortage of health care infrastructure and trained staff. The gap between what people need and what they have is driving growth of 10-12 per cent yearly. However, insurance covers less than 25 per cent of the population and out of pocket spending is high, which makes the market very price sensitive. The pandemic impacted our business. However, testing and examination volumes are further stabilising despite volatility in Covid-19 incidence. In India, we delivered millions of tests over the past months and expect an increasing demand in the next few years. We provide two types of antibody tests in India. One tests antibodies (both IgG and IgM) and the other the level of IgG antibodies in a person’s blood. IgM helps to detect recent virus infections while IgG develops after around 10 days of having the infection and can last months. It would show that someone has been exposed to the Sars-CoV-2 virus.
CT scan plays a major role in the detection, prognosis and treatment efficacy monitoring of Covid-19 patients. The CT scan of lungs is being used as a first line of confirmation for Covid-19, especially since it takes some time before we get results from RT-PCR tests. We have also developed plug-ins that would help in the diagnosis of Covid-19. Pneumonia index is a tool developed to score the severity of illness in patients, enabling health care professionals to diagnose the patient accordingly and remote scanning possibility to safeguard technicians who are doing the CT scans of infected patients. We have enabled a remote scanning facility to conduct the scans remotely without worrying about getting infected.
What are the innovations that are helping you in the Indian market?
Innovation is in our DNA. We are doing research and have been developing solutions in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and new computing technologies, the internet of medical things and data connection, technologies in diagnostics and therapies, automation of and robotic devices. We have more than 65 products enriched with AI. We hold more than 650 patent families related to artificial intelligence and we train our algorithms with more than 1 billion curated images, reports, and clinical data. We also collaborate with more than 4,500 clinical partners to enhance our research and development. Our teams worked round the clock to ensure quick response to Covid-19 related market needs by launching new tests (SARS-CoV-2 antibody, PCR, antigen), expanding our test menu and developing an AI-based algorithm that helped health care providers in better managing the patient.
At the same time, our digital health solutions, services and consulting can help in protecting health care workers and increasing health care delivery capacity. For instance, our digital services enable medical personnel to operate systems regardless of their location and thus with a potentially lower risk of infection. We are manufacturing CIOS Fit, a multidisciplinary mobile c-arm ready for demanding environments with imaging technology and an innovative touch and play concept. CIOS Fit is designed to help improve quality of care and achieve efficient workflows. It is designed, developed, and made in India and sold in south-east Asia, Africa, eastern Europe, and South America.
The SOMATOM go CT scanners from our Bengaluru facility are developed in collaboration with our customers to meet the demand of emerging markets. We have recently installed the 500th CT machine on the go.platform alone since its introduction in India in 2017. Our medical imaging manufacturing facility in Bengaluru has already produced over 100 units of CT machines since the start of the facility in January 2020.
Our teams have also played an important role in developing Smart Remote Services (SRS), which provides a fast, secure, and powerful data link that connects medical equipment to service experts. With data transfer via SRS, the performance and condition of your equipment can be monitored real time.
How do you compare the Indian market with the rest of the world?
India’s high attractiveness is reflected in population and the GDP growth as well as large health care investments. As mentioned earlier, India is a very price sensitive market and the reason for this is the lack of medical insurance and high out-of-pocket expenses. The innovative solutions developed at our campus and the centre of competences of emerging technologies will help us address challenges like affordability, accessibility and availability, addressing the future needs of the Indian health care industry. India is already an important R&D location for us and about 50 per cent of all software professionals in the company work here. Presently, about 2,400 professionals work at the centre, including 2,200 highly skilled software engineers. We would like to expand in two ways: as an innovation hub driving digitisation in health care and as an R&D and manufacturing centre for entry level products for emerging markets.