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Today’s rapidly evolving healthcare system demands more than ever from medical device manufacturers: more intelligence, more access and more savings.

Richard Hausmann, President and CEO, Elekta

But in the field of medicine, how does a company like Elekta improve while continuing to offer affordable solutions for patient care?

Often, we view innovation as a process of creating an entirely new product or concept, from the initial concept to development. However, a more cost-effective manner to approach innovation is to leverage the existing resources in our arsenal in novel and creative ways. Such approaches include using software solutions to address unmet needs, combining technologies to achieve improved patient outcomes and collaborating with clinical experts to meet the day-to-day challenges of patient care.

1. Software: Improving Workflow, Bridging Gaps in Care and Connecting Data

The convergence of medical technology and advanced software holds significant potential to advance outcomes, including: improving workflow, reducing human error, making new technologies available in areas with limited access and enabling more efficient data sharing.

Automated, patient-centric workflow processes allow medical departments and multi-site medical facilities to operate more efficiently with fewer personnel, which reduces the time and cost of delivering care. Moreover, automated systems can be designed with built-in checklists and failsafe mechanisms that ensure patients receive safe and effective care.

As our world becomes increasingly more connected, software and other digital solutions can be used to bridge geographic gaps that separate patients from expert care. In developed countries, telemedicine can connect patients in rural areas to leading physicians with expertise in particular diseases or treatment approaches. Reducing the physical and economic burdens on patients allows for rapid and cost-efficient care, while still ensuring an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Software also can be used to improve patient outcomes by connecting large, disparate sets of data in a meaningful way. METRIQ®, Elekta’s cancer registry data management system, includes automated tools and quality checks to safeguard consistency and reduce errors. Additionally, METRIQ allows institutions to follow patients for life and collect long-term data about treatment outcomes. These data can be used to inform treatment decisions for future patients and leverage learnings from clinics across the globe to personalize treatments.

2. Pushing Boundaries of Existing Technology

Another cost-effective solution for improving patient outcomes is to combine existing technologies to create entirely new approaches to therapy. Elekta’s MR-adaptive radiation therapy overcame significant engineering hurdles to integrate for the first time a high-field MRI, the most sophisticated imaging platform available, with a linear accelerator. The system has the potential to provide numerous benefits to physicians and patients, including precise localization of disease and tailored radiation targeting, while sparing adjacent healthy tissue and accurately adapting treatment when tumors move or change shape.

In addition, novel software functionalities are currently being developed to capitalize on the benefits provided by MR imaging. As a result, MR-adaptive radiation therapy will feature monitoring capabilities that take advantage of continuous MR imaging and provide the ability to plan treatments that ensure precise radiation dosing.

3. Propelling Innovation Through Collaboration

By nature, physicians are problem solvers. Harnessing their energy and insights is an effective way to innovate new devices that improve patient outcomes, and clinical collaboration has been a foundation of Elekta’s approach to advancing patient care. Together, we test theories about methods or needs and generate hypotheses about how fast a particular technology will be available and how effective it could be. Then we work together to make the future a reality.

The driving force for the development of Elekta’s MR-adaptive radiation therapy solution was extensive collaboration between international leaders in the fields of radiation oncology, physics, medical imaging and nuclear medicine. Such partnership across disciplines is integral to advancing innovation.

More than 10 years ago, engineers at Elekta, together with MR specialists from Philips and the clinicians from UMC Utrecht, began looking for ways to tackle the problem. Today there are six highly sophisticated investigational MR-adaptive radiation therapy systems installed at top cancer research centers around the world undergoing final testing before release of the system this year. The technology is on the cusp of approval and has a robust and growing body of data supporting its intended use in a variety of cancer indications.

Close collaboration with clinicians also supported the development of Venezia™, an advanced gynecological applicator that optimizes delivery of brachytherapy for the treatment of advanced-stage cervical cancer. Previously, treating this type of cancer was challenging as existing applicators didn’t always reach the tumor and were complicated and time-consuming to use. Radiation oncologists were developing prototype devices to overcome these limitations, and collaborating with a commercial organization such as Elekta was a winning solution for physicians, patients and the company.

We already have many tools available to meet critical objectives in medicine. If device manufacturers continue to leverage software, remain creative in making the most of today’s technologies and work with clinicians on the front lines of patient care to envision the treatments of tomorrow, we will continue to have the pieces we need to put together the safe, effective and efficient treatments that will improve patients’ lives.