Philips HealthWorks Supports Startups Using AI for Radiology, Ultrasound, and Oncology: Interview

In Philips innovation hubs located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Eindhover, Netherlands, Bangalore, India, and Shanghai, China, 19 startups out of 750 applicants are taking part in an intensive, 12-week Philips HealthWorks program to accelerate their innovations. The focus of this program is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare with the goal to improve patient outcomes and the efficiency of care delivery. During the program, the 19 startups, representing 14 different countries, will validate their value propositions, build, test, and scale their ideas, and explore potential collaborations with Philips and others. Participants will also benefit from Philips’ own AI platform for healthcare, Philips HealthSuite Insights. The platform is already used today to enable machine learning and deep learning applications in the areas of imaging, telehealth, oncology, and genomics.

According to Alberto Prado, Head of Philips HealthWorks, “We are already working closely with clinical partners to develop AI-enabled solutions that are grounded in scientific research and validated in clinical practice. This new collaboration program recognizes the role that start-up companies play in bringing breakthrough healthcare innovations to the market.”

The following are the 19 companies participating in the current program which culminates in “Breakthrough Day” taking place on December 12, 2018. All of the following leverage AI to address their indicated use case.

  • Radiology
    • Cercare Medical, brain maps for radiological assessment of CT and MRI scans
    • Contextflow, medical image data analysis
    • Image Biopsy Lab, prevention of debilitating bone diseases
    • Laralab, cardiac image-based intervention planning
    • LinkingMed, automatic organ delineation, adaptive radiotherapy planning, and quality control
    • Longwood Valley, surgery planning, diagnostics, and analytics
    • Lunit, cardiac imaging and digital pathology
    • Neurophet, neuromodulation guidance and medical image analysis
    • NeuroPsyAI, diagnosis of neurological and psychiatric diseases using MRI
    • Predible, surgical planning, malignancy scoring, nodule tracking, and response assessment for lung cancer
    • Quantib, detecting changes in tissue for diagnosis of dementia and multiple sclerosis
    • Quibim, transforming medical images into meaningful data
    • Triocula, cross platform surgical planning using advanced imaging
    • Zed+, software and workflow solutions to improve radiology department efficiency
  • Ultrasound
    • CompassNeuroScience, localize and classify brain dysfunction diseases
    • Onsight, automated medical imaging
    • ThinkSono, diagnosis for deep vein thrombosis
  • Oncology
    • Cipher Gene, decoding cancer to manage as a chronic disease
    • Deepinformatics, pathological imaging diagnostic tool for improved efficiency and accuracy

Medgadget had a chance to learn more about Philips’ incubator program as well as its motivation behind focusing on AI from Joe Frassica, Head of Research for the Americas.


Medgadget, Michael Batista: Thank you for taking the time to tell us more about Philips’ AI-focused HealthWorks program. Let’s start with why Philips, an organization with a significant global footprint that actively invests in R&D, finds value in fostering and working with startups whose ideas are just getting off the ground?

Dr. Joe Frassica: As a company, we actively pursue what we call Open Innovation – working with partners who share our vision of meaningful innovation of comprehensive solutions. Our vision is to have a positive impact on the lives of three billion people every year, by 2025 – but we don’t work in isolation. We realize there are global issues in healthcare, whether it be aging populations, cost of healthcare, growth in chronic disease, or obstacles to access. These are not easily solvable problems, and it takes a multitude of players working together, as the root issues are often multi-layered and involve change within a variety of players in the ecosystem.


Medgadget: What was the process for applying and the criteria that was used for selecting startups to participate from among the 750 groups that applied?

Dr. Frassica: The selection process is extremely stringent. The reason for this is that the program itself is intimate, with startups gaining access to a significant number of experts within Philips, not to mention partners in our ecosystem. Additionally, we run these programs to solve very real challenges that exist not only in our businesses but globally. So, it’s important to us that we only work with startups that we believe have high potential.

For this global cohort, in order to come to the final list of nineteen participating startups, we looked at some 750+ startups. Those that made it through to the program were able to demonstrate a clear understanding and insight on a number of points, including:

  • Problem/solution fit
  • Market opportunity
  • Competitive advantage
  • Scalability
  • Customer insight
  • An understanding of Philips’ needs and how they could potentially collaborate with us
  • This is often the beginning of a long relationship, and there needs to be a fit between the co-founders and the culture of Philips

A very large component of our assessment is whether the co-founders have a motivation that stretches beyond financial goals. We recognize how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur It is a long road full of pitfalls and it takes a resoluteness and determination to succeed when faced with adversity.


Medgadget: Can you share some examples of the innovations your startups bring to the table?

Dr. Frassica: While the program is billed broadly as “AI in Healthcare,” there is a specific focus on solutions related to ultrasound, radiology, and oncology. In broad terms, there are startups looking at how to diagnose neurological diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) using AI-enabled imaging and extend ultrasound capabilities to new applications in acute care and emergency settings.  We are using AI to inform treatment plans in the radiology treatment department, an area that has been predominantly manual to date, to plan surgeries, and to impact the radiologist workflow with goals of improving accuracy, treatment planning, and throughput. Our nineteen participating startups can be viewed here.


Medgadget: Why did Philips decide to focus on AI for this iteration of the program? 

Dr. Frassica: HealthWorks has adopted a model of working very closely with our business units and research teams, to ensure we are staying ahead of the industry and focusing on healthcare’s biggest challenges. In order to do this, we spend time with various senior stakeholders from the business units and research teams to understand (a) what their future strategy looks like and where gaps may exist in their product portfolio, (b) what is the strategic vision of the business unit, and what are the challenges or insights of our customers that may be driving this vision and (c) where might the biggest shifts in healthcare occur, as they relate to the business unit or research team.

With respect to the AI-based program, this is obviously a focus of Philips and many other organizations, but it has particular relevance right now for a variety of reasons. On its current trajectory, the world will simply not have enough human and financial resources to deliver quality care in the traditional brick-and-mortar hospital model, due to our rapidly growing and economically-developing population. At the same time, the growth rate and diversity of our healthcare data has far outpaced our ability to analyze it, to extract relevant correlations, to create and validate models and meaningful hypotheses using traditional approaches and methods. This realization is driving extensive efforts across academia and business to harness the power of AI as a set of tools to scale our ability to analyze and leverage the treasure trove of data.

The promise is that AI will enable standardization and industrialization of care delivery processes. It will also provide actionable information to consumers to take a more proactive role in their health. It will offer clinicians an integrated picture of relevant patient data, thereby empowering them to apply more precise diagnosis and personalized treatment. AI will play a primary role in making the relationship between healthcare organizations and patients stronger, timelier, and of higher quality through new AI-driven services that help curate, advise, and orchestrate lifestyle and care.

We’ve specifically focused on AI in ultrasound, oncology, and radiology.  Each of these specialties are facing very real challenges right now, largely due to growing case volumes.  It is well recognized that AI-enabled solutions are going to help with solving the dual aspect of diminishing expertise in both developed and developing countries, dramatically increasing healthcare costs, growing populations and incidences, and a lack of dispersed high-quality healthcare. Additionally, these three areas have not yet seen significant progress made in respect to AI being applied to solutions to further improve their effectiveness, scale and efficiency. This all points to fertile ground for exploration.


Medgadget: Tell us about Philips’ HealthSuite Insights AI platform. How is it being used today?

Dr. Frassica: Launched earlier this year, HealthSuite Insights gives data scientists, software developers, clinicians, and healthcare providers access to advanced analytic capabilities to curate and analyze healthcare data and offers them tools and technologies to build, maintain, deploy, and scale AI-based solutions. It includes Insights Marketplace, the healthcare industry’s first ecosystem where curated Artificial Intelligence assets from Philips and others are readily available for license. Along with access to our health technology expertise and ecosystem of knowledge partners, HealthSuite Insights is a benefit we can offer the start-up companies in the HealthWorks program, providing them with tools that will enable the development of their AI propositions.


Medgadget: Has Philips HealthWorks run previous incubator programs? What topics in healthcare did those programs focus on?

Dr. Frassica: This is actually the sixth startup program that we have run in a short period of two years.  These previous programs have covered the broad themes of:

  • Fertility, pregnancy, and parenting
  • Oncology diagnostics
  • Cardiology and acute care


Medgadget: How is the program coordinated across the different Philips hub locations? Do the startups have access to the same resources and opportunities for engagement?

Dr. Frassica: We utilize a standardized program for each of the hubs to ensure consistency in the delivery of content and methodology across all the locations, and most importantly, to ensure we are driving to the same outcome.  It is important to understand that the stakeholders are often the same no matter the location, and therefore it is important to have a consistent approach. The startups have access to the same resources and opportunities across the various sites and we try to replicate the expertise as best as possible. We will actively move content providers around the globe in order to ensure that the teams receive access to the very best.

An interesting aspect we have introduced this year is a US Trek. Recently, two-thirds of the cohort came to the U.S., specifically Boston and Phoenix, and met with members of the various eco-systems, covering clinical networks and providers, organizational partners, payers, and interested investor groups. HealthWorks has established this Trek in collaboration with partners and it is interesting to see just how much interest there is for local groups to meet with startups from across the world on these topics.


Medgadget: What is the ultimate goal of the HealthWorks incubator program on both sides? What do Philips and the startups seek to gain from participation?

Dr. Frassica: The HealthWorks Startup Program is an intensive twelve-week journey for both the startup and HealthWorks.  We have built the structure of the program around a philosophy of collaboration and the program is a mechanism to understand how this collaboration could come to fruition. There are four parameters that we look to answer, in cooperation with the startup and our internal stakeholders throughout the program:

  • Value equation – What is the new value or challenge that could be solved by having Philips and the start-up collaborate? We want to understand what steps Philips could take to resolve known challenges in the business and for our customers by beginning a partnership with the startup. And, equally, we want the startup to understand what they could achieve with Philips that they could not achieve on their own.  If we cannot answer both sides of this equation, it is unlikely that a collaboration is merited.
  • Milestones – What are the key milestones over the next 6-12 months that the startup needs to achieve in order to progress their solution and where could Philips assist? We call this the growth map and it is a way to realistically understand the time to market and what impact regulatory and health economics are going to have on the solution.
  • Collaboration mechanism – we believe that a true collaboration is not just an investment decision. From our experience, good startups have a wide range of funding options and this is not what is going to prohibit their growth. What they really need is expertise, guidance, and access.  This is something that Philips is uniquely placed to provide based on our 127 years of experience and wide-ranging capabilities in both consumer and professional healthcare. Consequently, we look at other ways to collaborate with the startup to help them accelerate, which could include IP sharing, joint development, or co-creation.
  • CAPS – Capabilities, assets, and process. What capabilities and assets need to be accessed or created in order for the solution to be successful and where are these going to be sourced from?

In order to provide answers to these parameters, the program delivers three key components over the 12 weeks:

  • Content – Lean startup and business model innovation methodologies, combined with aspects that we know are important to building solutions in healthcare that many startups simply don’t understand, including HEMA (Health Economics and Market Access), Regulatory, IP&S, and Business Case Creation.
  • Stakeholder interaction – In-depth and constant interaction with key stakeholders from across the Philips business. These people could be business leads, research heads, or domain experts. These are all people who can challenge the startup appropriately and provide real direction on how to build out their solution and succeed.
  • Eco-system interaction – We know that customer insight is critical to ensuring your solution is not only solving a problem that is real, but one that people will pay for. In order to do this, the startups must speak to actual customers and users.  Via our extensive network that includes academia, clinicians, investors, and organizational partners. we provide access to people that would simply be beyond many startups’ reach.

With all of this content and access, the startups are then coached by their respective HealthWorks representative to build their collaboration story and present this to Philips at the end of the program, with checkpoints throughout. By going through this learning and validation journey, the goal is that not only will the startup have been exposed to learnings that will help them to accelerate their businesses, but also there may be a possibility to collaborate with Philips to jointly create solutions that will impact healthcare at a global level.


Medgadget: Does Philips still work with any former participants in the HealthWorks program?

Dr. Frassica: While we cannot speak to the collaborations that we have formed with participants in our previous programs, as these are still in early stage mode of development, we did recently announce an investment into one of our alumni, Common Sensing. All of our alumni from our previous programs are kept in regular contact with Philips via HealthWorks and they continue to interact and engage with us, learning via events and activities.

More info: Philips HealthWorks…

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