Health and Science

GE's health unit wins first FDA clearance for A.I.-powered X-ray system

Key Points
  • The FDA cleared GE Healthcare's new artificial intelligence-powered X-ray device for patients suffering from a collapsed lung.
  • The device uses AI algorithms to scan X-ray images to detect pneumothorax, reducing the time from eight hours to as little as 15 minutes, GE says.
  • About 74,000 Americans a year suffer from the deadly disorder.
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The Food and Drug Administration has cleared a new artificial intelligence-powered X-ray device that maker GE Healthcare says reduces the time to detect a collapsed lung from eight hours to as little as 15 minutes, the company announced Thursday.

The device, called the Critical Care Suite, uses AI algorithms to scan X-ray images and detect pneumothorax, a deadly condition more commonly known as a collapsed lung that affects roughly 74,000 Americans each year.

"The health-care industry is producing huge amounts of data from images to digital health records," GE Healthcare CEO Kieran Murphy said in an interview with CNBC ahead of the announcement. "We strongly believe that you have to turn that data into information and insight to improve outcomes."

GE Healthcare, a dominant player in hospital and lab equipment, said its goal is to integrate AI into every aspect of the health-care system to ultimately "improve patient outcomes, reduce waste and inefficiencies, and eliminate costly errors."

The General Electric unit's technology, developed with scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, is trained to detect pneumothorax, but the company said it's working to enhance it to detect other health conditions.

Original image acquired on GE Healthcare's Optima XR240amx system with Critical Care Suite, an industry-first collection of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms embedded on a mobile X-ray device.
Source: GE

The technology works by using AI to analyze images from an X-ray, the company said. If a condition is suspected — in this case, pneumothorax— the image is sent directly to the radiologist for review. The technology functions outside the cloud and isn't dependent on an internet connection, the company said.

"Currently, 62% of portable chest exams are marked 'STAT' or for urgent reading, but they aren't all critical," said Jie Xue, president and CEO of the firm's X-ray division. "This creates a delay in turnaround for truly critical patients, which can be a serious issue."

The FDA clearance comes at a time when AI is expanding across the medical field, helping doctors quickly analyze a range of illnesses and diseases, thus reducing cost and inefficiencies. While there's optimism, there are also concerns about technology making major medical decisions.

Larry Culp is a different leader, GE is a different organization: Lagenberg and Company principal
Larry Culp is a different leader, GE is a different organization: Lagenberg and Company principal

"There's no suggestion that you're replacing the radiologist," Murphy said in the interview. "Naturally, [the radiologist] will check that they agree with the conclusion. But so far the accuracy of large pneuomothroax is at 96% and a very low number of false and is a problem as well of course."

The device is expected to hit the U.S. market this year.

The health-care unit has drastically grown from its origins in 1896 when it began developing X-rays. The company has become a leader in the medical health-care field. It's already a dominant player in hospital and lab equipment and is a growing force in medical records, health-care software and has expanded its mark on gene therapy research.

In February, GE announced plans to sell its biopharma portion to industrial firm Danaher for $21.4 billion.