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Gil Medical Center develops AI, robots, IoT wards 
  • By Yang Geum-deok
  • Published 2018.01.08 16:57
  • Updated 2018.01.08 17:21
  • comments 0

Local medical institutions are trying out a variety of artificial intelligence-based technologies. Among them, Gachon University Gil Medical Center is at the front. Two years ago, it became the first local hospital to adopt IBM’s AI program, Watson for Oncology. Last year, the hospital was the first to adopt a humanoid, Pepper. This year, the hospital is building Internet-of-Things (IoT) wards, raising its brand value as an AI-based medical facility.

Behind Gil Medical Center’s innovative moves was Kim Young-bo, a professor of neurosurgery at the hospital. Kim persuaded hospital officials to adopt IBM’s Watson. He calls the current era “spookily integrated,” as many famous companies around the world focus on AI development and the use of Cloud. Medical institutions are not an exception, and they need to change, Kim said.

Kim Young-bo, a professor of neurosurgery at Gachon University Gil Medical Center, emphasizes the hospital’s brand value as an AI-based medical institution in an interview with Korea Biomedical Review.

Watson enables multidisciplinary care, advances medicine

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a fast fish eats a slow fish. In other words, gone are the days when a big fish swallowed a small fish. For small Korean hospitals, which had to overcome the big -five hospitals to succeed in the old days, the fourth industrialization is a new opportunity. It is why Gil Medical Center secured the brand of “the first hospital to use Watson.”

“It is easy to say only words. Rather, we should take actions and go through many trials and errors to learn more and seek new ideas,” Kim said. “IBM’s Watson allowed us to do multidisciplinary care, which is what they say “dream care.” Six doctors have a conversation about a patient and share information earned from the seventh doctor Watson. Then, they make a decision.”

Watson can also work as a next-generation electronic medical record (EMR) based on the Cloud environment. Providing multidisciplinary care, Watson keeps a record of patient information and treatment results. This can be an essential stepping-stone to promote Korea’s excellent medical achievements to the international audience, according to Kim.

“Korea has many gastric cancer patients, boasting the highest treatment rate in the world. In the U.S. where gastric cancer is rare, patients get chemotherapy first, then a surgery. But in Korea, patients get surgery first, then chemo,” Kim said. “Such data of excellent treatment results can be shared through a universal format of Watson with the world.”

Korea has so far learned medical technologies from advanced countries, but now, the country can contribute to the world by sharing its medical techniques, he went on to say.

Gachon University Gil Medical Center started to use IBM’s Watson for Oncology in clinical service in December 2016.

From EMR to PACS to medical chatbots

Kim’s challenges did not stop there. He pushed the hospital to adopt the human-like robot Pepper and establish an IoT-based oncolytic treatment center.

The challenging spirit of Kim is widely known in the medical community. In the late 1990s, he led Korea’s development of EMRs and a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), a medical imaging technology. He also helped establish a concept of a neuroscience research institute for the first time in Korea.

“I started developing EMR in 1996 and completed it in 1998. At a research venture firm, I developed PACS. At that time I had to do all the works, including installing optical fiber cable at a hospital,” Kim said. “At the time, the hospital was in the leading group that adopted the full PACS. But now, PACS has its limitations. Lunit is working on an AI-based total analysis system. I can feel how quickly these advancements are being made.”

What Kim focuses on nowadays is technology-supported communication. Although at the early stage, the humanoid Pepper is expected to carry out an effective communication shortly, he said.

In other countries including Belgium, Pepper works as a patient care provider. At Gil Medical Center, Pepper helps navigation around the hospital. But in a phased way, it will be used as medical chatbot to automatically recommend a department/center and a specialist, and help medical examinations. Another Pepper for research will be developed to ensure the safety of the elderly and youth who live alone, diagnose dementia and emotional disorder, and help rehabilitation.

According to Kim, Pepper is becoming more useful. For example, Philips connects Pepper to test if a person has sleep apnea.

“I don’t know how far Pepper can evolve. The world is advancing at an alarming rate. I heard Google developed a technology to call a bird with a recorded sound of a bird. Soon, we will be able to have a conversation with a bird with the help of AI,” Kim said.

Gachon University Gil Medical Center adopted a humanoid Pepper in September, the first for a South Korean hospital.

IoT wards where accurate communication with patients occurs

Building the brand value as an AI-based hospital, Gil Medical Center is preparing “AI-based IoT Oncolytic Treatment Center,” which integrates Watson, Pepper, and IoT. For this, the hospital has readied IoT wards on the eighth floor of the hospital.

“We try to make IoT wards by putting a spacious hotel-like room within the Watson Center where cancer outpatients can get treatments, converse with Pepper, and call a nurse through an AI-based station,” Kim said.

Observers are paying attention when Kim’s dreams will come true to make Korea, a sensational powerhouse in medical advancement.


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