Artificial intelligence and digital transformation play an important role in improving cancer diagnosis, treatments and increasing cancer survival rates, writes Dee Mathieson, Senior Vice President Linac Service and Managing Director of Elekta Ltd
With a global drive to increase cancer survival rates through earlier detection and improved diagnostics, radiotherapy has a key part to play. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and annual numbers of new cases are projected to increase from 14.1 million in 2012 to 21.6 million in 2030.
Early diagnosis is key to survival and new research, technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation must be our focus in the decades ahead. Developments in mainstream MRI techniques are enabling radiotherapy to offer greater opportunities for more personalised treatments and improved patient care. However, in order to have enough capacity for patients who will need radiotherapy, quick access to treatment with reliable equipment is what counts in a cancer treatment department.
Predictive analysis is vital to reduce delays in frontline care
With the current backlog of cancer cases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, radiation treatment has to be readily available and delays due to machinery downtime can place even more pressure on increasing waiting lists and patients’ stress levels when their treatment is postponed.
The power of AI & digital transformation
Since 2016, Elekta has developed a digital end to end service infrastructure, with the use of data and AI at the very heart of the platform. Crucial to this initiative is the ability to use data analytics to monitor Elekta’s cancer treatment systems installed at cancer clinics across the globe to predict when issues may arise. Using Elekta IntelliMax®, the company constantly monitors and analyses technical data from more than 18,000 connected systems in real-time, harnessing the power of AI, machine learning and proprietary algorithms to trigger an alert if a potential issue is detected.
Being able to provide predictive maintenance is a significant step for clinics and their cancer patients. The IntelliMax system can pinpoint linear accelerator — a device used to treat cancer with external beam radiotherapy – or other system issues, that could disrupt the timeliness of treatment such as a system component starting to degrade or requiring recalibration, alerting the Elekta Care Support Centre (ECSC) through a secure connection, enabling a support agent to remotely fix the issue. And where a remote fix is not possible, the system enables a specialist to be onsite at an agreed time to carry out proactive maintenance without disrupting patient treatment schedules.
Data from Elekta shows that more than eight hours of system downtime can be avoided per IntelliMax-detected service issue through Elekta’s remote-fix first strategy. In 2019 this equated to 70,000 hours of clinical downtime being avoided, ensuring an assumed 210,000 patient treatments were not delayed.
IntelliMax can also monitor software issues and can be used for Elekta’s Monaco® treatment planning system and MOSAIQ® Oncology information System, which requires the storage of large amounts of radiotherapy data. Many hospitals may be unaware that they are running out of disk space on servers. Once full, there is no way to store further images in MOSAIQ. IntelliMax can prevent this situation by generating a predictive case for any site that is close to filling up its disk space. The application servers can be remotely accessed to clear up to 500GB of unnecessary data.
Similarly, if the DICOM communications system loses connectivity, this can prevent images and data from being saved to the planning system or linac, causing a bottleneck in the patient treatment workflow. IntelliMax sends an email to one of Elekta’s remote support specialists specifying where the system has crashed. The support agent can restore it with a single click, the whole process taking just a couple of minutes.
The benefits to both clinics and their patients are clear, particularly in more remote areas where on-site help would be hours away by car or plane. However, the system also enabled the delivery of a first-class level of service throughout the global pandemic.
Real-time information provides crucial insight & round the clock customer service
Having the foresight to move with the times and putting in place a digital platform strategy using predictive technology has also enabled Elekta to remain ahead of the game when it comes to supply chain challenges and efficiency of service. During the early stages of the pandemic, this was particularly helpful in overcoming challenges such as closures of warehouses and customs, as well as the suspension of commercial cargo transport and restrictions of goods crossing borders.
Central to the success of the platform has been the use of data to enable decision making based on real-time information. A core data team was established within the service supply chain, and business intelligence tools have been developed to show where parts stock needs to be, while also predicting demand so it is possible to replenish ahead of time while still optimising inventory levels. In combination with IntelliMax’s capability of predicting system issues before they even occur, this allows Elekta to preposition parts to where it is needed for proactive maintenance at a hospital’s system.
Machine learning and AI combined with advanced statistical tools brings significant advantages for the supply chain, enabling a planning tool for service optimisation, inventory management and simulation analysis. The transparency of the Global Inventory and Supply Chain operation business tools help internal audiences and external stakeholders make better decisions. For example, enabling service managers to check out stock availability in their region or investigate the trendline for demand on a particular spare part.
The chain also allows for better collaboration with strategic partners, which provide warehousing and transport management, and import/export expertise, which helps lessen the impact of global transportation and cargo delivery shutdowns.
The business intelligence and data warehouse platform enable data to be pulled from multiple business platforms and consolidate it, ensuring the company’s support and logistics teams can take fast and appropriate action, creating greater efficiency.
Using data and AI
In a global business like Elekta which has technology and research at its heart, there is a wealth of data that can be collected. Pulling this information together and analysing it can reveal patterns across the business that prompt immediate action that leads to improvement across the board – from customer service through to patient care.
Using data and AI to provide a real-time view of how the company operates is crucial to providing safe, effective and timely radiotherapy to cancer patients at all times – even through a global emergency.
© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.