Industry Voices—3 lessons I learned in healthcare from the rough winters of Norway

It's possible to find health lessons anywhere, even in the snow. (Getty/Eswaran Arulkumar)

Winters in Norway can be inhospitable.

Temperatures drop into negative double digits, winds whip and snowstorms pummel anyone brave enough to venture outside.

Growing up in extreme weather like this taught me a few lessons that I use to navigate the current challenges that exist in healthcare today.

Three of those lessons include:

Just keep moving.

As a child playing outdoors in the frigid temperatures, I quickly learned that if I didn’t keep moving, my fingers and toes would go numb. In the healthcare environment, it’s also critical to avoid stagnation—and to keep an open mind as technologies present themselves with possible applications.

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Not too long ago, artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare was viewed with skepticism. Today, we’re seeing proof that it can make patient care more effective, efficient and faster. 

In the case of ultrasound, AI-powered systems can acquire and reconstruct an unprecedented amount of data in real-time to create focused images. Intelligent algorithms help to segment lesions and identify vessels, which accelerates reads and could lead to an earlier diagnosis and a better outcome for the patient.

AI has the potential to advance as a support tool—see the unseen, answer questions that had never been asked and consume information previously impossible for clinicians to digest. And we’ve only scratched the surface. As we continue to uncover more, AI will bring even greater possibilities to advance healthcare.

Be prepared for any environment.

Inclement weather can go from bad to worse with little warning, but I learned to pay close attention to the signs of change: shifting winds, a darkening sky and a feeling of “calm” before the storm.

In our industry, we have to watch for trends and changes too.

When we think about what people need right now in the context of healthcare, it’s access, quality and affordability.

Approximately five billion people around the world do not have access to a hospital. Fortunately, the miniaturization and mobility of devices enable providers to reach beyond the walls of a hospital and offer patients access anytime and anywhere.

On a rescue helicopter, an ultrasound device the size of a smartphone enables providers to make focused assessments and accelerate treatment decisions at the point of care. Cloud-connected ECG systems in local clinics throughout India help doctors detect heart complications within minutes of a patient’s arrival. And a wireless fetal heart rate monitor allows expectant moms to move more freely without being constrained to a specific area.

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As healthcare continues to expand beyond the traditional hospital walls, it will only be more convenient, digitally connected, and affordable for patients and caregivers.

Use the buddy system.

Never venture out in a snowstorm alone. Not only for safety reasons, but friends can also offer a helpful perspective—to point out the best path or warn of icy patches ahead.

Similarly, our partners play a critical role in our journey to improve healthcare outcomes. By collaborating with customers, clinicians and solution providers, we can empower clinicians to tackle challenges from various angles looking at patients’ needs across the entire care pathway. 

It’s critical to look at the patient population with a micro-level personalization, rather than painting a broad stroke. This method, which we call Precision Health, leverages computational power, modern analytics and broad inputs of patient information to help make more individualized and accurate treatment plans. Whether tackling oncology or critical care illnesses such as sepsis, the combination of in vivo and in vitro data could help physicians identify—or even predict—severe complications.

By continuing to innovate, making healthcare more accessible and finding ways to partner for better health, we will continue to move forward and not get caught unprepared in “the cold.”

Anders Wold is GE Healthcare’s president and CEO of Clinical Care Solutions.