March 08, 2022
2 min read
Medical device company Medtronic and the ASGE have collaborated to create the Medtronic Health Equity Assistance Program, which aims to improve access to colorectal cancer screening technologies in underserved U.S. communities.
According to a Medtronic press release, the initiative will include the donation of 50 Medtronic GI Genius intelligent endoscopy modules, which have the potential to improve detection of polyps that can lead to CRC, to endoscopy centers throughout the U.S. In addition, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is donating AWS computing credits that support the initiative, as well as the development of future Medtronic health screening technologies.
It is projected that the new program may benefit more than 350,000 patients in low-income and underserved communities over the next 3 years. Recipients of the modules are being identified through an application process that is independently overseen by ASGE.
Healio spoke with Austin Chiang, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of gastrointestinal business at Medtronic and assistant professor and chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health, about how the program aims to increase access to CRC screening tools in underserved areas.
Healio: What is the main goal of the Health Equity Assistance Program?
Chiang: The intent with these donations is to increase access to screenings to reduce the disparities in CRC diagnoses and screening rates, within communities and populations that are disproportionately burdened. For instance, Black Americans are about 20% more likely to be diagnosed with CRC and about 40% more likely to die from it than other groups, and Latin American adults are more likely to be diagnosed in later stages of the disease than most other populations.
Healio: How did the program come about?
Chiang: There has been heightened awareness around the problems our country faces with regards to health equity. In February 2022, Medtronic released its global inclusion, diversity and equity annual report, which maps out the company’s commitment to remove barriers to opportunity — including efforts to improve access to health care technology. This donation connects with Medtronic’s commitment to health equity anchored in health care technology.
Healio: What is the GI Genius intelligent endoscopy module?
Chiang: GI Genius intelligent endoscopy module is the first-to-market, computer-aided polyp detection system powered by artificial intelligence. The effort aims to place GI Genius intelligent endoscopy modules in endoscopy centers that face challenges financing and maintaining screening technologies and provide communities in need with equipment to support early detection.
The module detects colorectal polyps of all shapes and sizes automatically in real-time, which helps diagnose and prevent CRC; it serves as a second set of eyes that doesn’t get tired or distracted. Even among experienced endoscopists, AI has been shown to improve physicians’ polyp detection rate during colonoscopy without significantly increasing procedural time.
Notably, GI Genius offers a 14.4% increase in absolute detection rate (ADR) compared with a traditional, unaided colonoscopy carried out by an HCP. Each 1% increase in ADR decreases patients’ risk of CRC by 3%.
Healio: Where do you foresee the program — and the expansion of access to the GI Genius — going in the future?
Chiang: The selected centers will be the owners of the module(s) following a $0 purchase that includes a 3-year capital agreement with a service plan through Medtronic, which will provide support for the equipment during the term agreement. Over time, increased awareness and adoption of GI Genius will help improve our outcomes and prevent CRC.
Most importantly, I hope this initiative heralds many more collaborations between our GI societies and technology partners to further tackle health inequity from various angles. There are a multitude of social determinants of health that have led to the disparities we see in health today, and access to novel technology is only one small piece of the puzzle.