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Grady Memorial Hospital to Use AI Technology to Improve Colon Cancer Screening

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   August 03, 2022

The Atlanta hospital is the first in the country to receive an AI-enhanced technology platform donated by Medtronic. 

Grady Memorial Hospital is using a new technology platform donated by Medtronic to improve colon cancer screening in medically underserved communities.

The Atlanta hospital was the first to receive GI Genius modules through Medtronic's Health Equity Assistance Program. The FDA-authorized technology uses AI algorithms to help clinicians detect colorectal polyps in real time.

"Gastroenterologists at Grady Memorial Hospital perform more than 7,000 colon cancer screening procedures each year among a predominantly Black community," Benjamin Renelus, MD, a gastroenterologist at Grady Hospital, said in an e-mail to HealthLeaders. "Accounting for 80% of the specialty's patient population, Black adults are disproportionately burdened by colon cancer, at greater risk of diagnosis, worse outcome, and death."

Renelus says the technology will help the hospital improve the screening rate by reducing barriers to care faced by Black and other populations.

"There are different obstacles that patients face when they seek colon cancer screenings," he said. "For some, they remain uninsured and may not be aware that they can access screening for colon cancer. At Grady Memorial Hospital, 30% of our patients are uninsured."

"For some, the barrier might be perceived cost, especially considering that the average income of a patient at Grady Memorial Hospital is $20,000," he continued. "For others, there might be a barrier of knowledge: Many may not know that 45 years old is the new recommended age for getting a colon cancer screening. Installing AI-assisted colonoscopy technology ensures that regardless of the barriers patients might face when seeking a colonoscopy, when they come here, they will benefit from technology that helps physicians to detect more cancerous lesions and polyps sooner."

According to Medtronic officials, a multi-center study conducted this past spring and published in the American Gastroenterological Association's medical journal found that AI-enhanced technology helped to improve colorectal polyp detection by some 50%.

"Considering that 90% of patients with certain types of colon cancer can beat it if caught early, the impact of missed polyps can make a dramatic difference for patients," Austin Chiang, MD, MPH, chief medical officer for Medtronic's gastrointestinal business line, said in the e-mail. "As effective as a good gastroenterologist can be while performing a colonoscopy, they are still only human. … By improving a doctor’s ability to detect polyps, AI technology has become critical in the fight against colorectal cancer for providers and patients."

Medtronic's Health Equity Assistance Program, supported by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and Amazon Web Services, aims to get this technology into hospitals and health systems by reducing the initial cost barrier.

The initial plan was to donate 50 modules "to facilities that face the most barriers to accessing the technology and its benefits." Officials now expect to place 133 modules in 62 facilities around the country.

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


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