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Provincial hospitals unite under AI to compete against metropolitan rivals
  • By Yang Geum-deok
  • Published 2017.10.31 15:30
  • Updated 2017.10.31 15:30
  • comments 0

Provincial university hospitals using artificial intelligence have formed a consortium to compete against large hospitals in and around the Seoul metropolitan area.

Six hospitals in five provinces said they formed the so-called AI Healthcare Consortium. The six are Gacheon University Gil Medical Center in Incheon, Konyang University Hospital in Daejeon, Pusan National University Hospital, Daegu Catholic University Medical Center, Dongsan Medical Center of Keimyung University in Daegu, and Chosun University Hospital in Gwangju. They have adopted an AI system “Watson for Oncology,” developed by IBM to diagnose cancer.

Six hospitals, which adopted AI-based system Watson for Oncology, hold a news conference to announce they have built an “AI Healthcare Consortium,” at the International Finance Center in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday.

At a news conference on Monday at the International Finance Center in Yeoeuido, Seoul, the six hospitals said their consortium would accelerate innovation in medical technologies, enhance their public concern, and build an “AI ecology” through exchanges among the business, academic and medical fields.

The consortium is open for exchanges with private companies in AI business and other medical institutions, the hospitals said.

The consortium will operate under three commissions divided for operation, big data and joint research, and facilitation of medical treatment. The big data commission, in particular, will build a platform to share quality medical big data based on information and communications technology (ICT) among the hospitals.

Through the platform, the hospitals will be able to get access to sample big data on clinical studies, genomes, scanned images and video footages and patients’ life logs. The commission for facilitation of medical treatment will monitor how each hospital offers Watson-based therapies, find ways to improve them and prepare grounds to demand a new medical payment system for AI-based medical treatments.

“Seven hospitals have adopted Watson system so far, and the number will soon reach 10. When we first adopted the AI system, we faced strong resistance. But now, it is becoming a major medical trend,” said Lee Uhn, a professor of Gachon University Gil Medical Center, who serves as the first chairman of the consortium. “Some pointed out that we are trying to do business with cancer patients but enhancing the public concern through AI is one of our important goals.”

Lee noted that a majority of cancer patients prefer large hospitals in Seoul, adding that AI-based medical treatments will be able to resolve such overcrowding issue because they can deepen mutual trust between patients and provincial hospital.

AI-based treatments can also alleviate inequality of medical services, reduce excessive medical spending, and encourage patients to visit near hospitals, Lee went on to say. In the long term, such “trickle-down effect” will make the healthcare system efficient and reinforce public needs, he noted.

Professor Song Seok-young송석영 at Daegu Catholic University Medical Center said the six hospitals plan to benchmark the U.S. medical payment case where the authorities pay for AI-based scanning for breast cancer patients.

“Korea’s five largest hospitals are also preparing to get approval from the U.S. FDA for medical payment on the use of the software they developed on their own and establish a new medical payment system,” Song said. “We will make efforts to have Watson recognized as a new medical technology.”


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