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Gastroenterologists use artificial intelligence to enhance colonoscopy efficiency, quality

Gastroenterologists from the Digestive Health Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are using the latest in artificial intelligence technology to help them prevent colorectal cancer through colonoscopy. The team is measuring how new software called Medtronic GI Genius intelligent endoscopy will help physicians find precancerous polyps and cancer in their earliest stages and its impact on screening colonoscopy efficiency.

“We are constantly developing and implementing new ways to improve the quality of screening colonoscopies to provide our patients world-class care,” says Rajesh Keswani, MD, Director of Quality and Director of Endoscopy for the Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health Center. “The thorough screening colonoscopies we provide patients can take time as we carefully look for colorectal cancer. Artificial intelligence supports our efforts by using robust data to help physicians identify polyps or lesions in their earliest stages. Our hope is that we can combine our physician expertise and this computer-assisted technology to provide even higher-quality care in less time, which means more patients have access to the screenings they need.”

When a gastroenterologist uses the GI Genius technology during a colonoscopy, a green box appears on screen, highlighting areas the technology identifies as potentially precancerous lesions. The physician then examines the tissue to decide whether to remove it for further analysis.

The Northwestern team are not only consumers of the latest in AI technology, but also are leading researchers in the field. “We are also researching the ways artificial intelligence can improve the quality of screening colonoscopies in healthcare settings where fewer colonoscopies are performed,” Dr. Keswani said. “Our team has developed artificial intelligence algorithms that help us assess the quality of screening colonoscopy, and we are currently implementing this work for physicians practicing in rural communities.”

These advancements are just the latest in the Digestive Health Center team’s efforts to use artificial intelligence to enhance patient care, says John Pandolfino, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Northwestern Medicine. He leads the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics in Gastroenterology, a first-of-its kind program that was developed in collaboration with engineers at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to vastly improve our ability to accurately predict, diagnose and treat our patients living with digestive diseases,” Dr. Pandolfino said.

The center focuses on three main initiatives:

· The development of virtual organs, which can be used to study the effects of surgery and medications

· The development of new hybrid diagnostic tools that use AI and machine learning to enhance diagnosis

· Using machine learning and neural networks to predict disease outcomes

“This program has already created new AI prototypes that can improve diagnostic accuracy and reliability of motility tests, and we have developed a Center of Research Expertise that is funded by the National Institutes of Health,” Dr. Pandolfino said. “Our team aims to improve the quality of endoscopies by bringing more accuracy and efficiency to the patients we serve.”

After Dr. Keswani and his colleagues assess the Genius GI software, they will talk to other gastroenterology colleagues throughout Northwestern Medicine to decide whether it should be used at the eight other hospitals that provide gastroenterology care.

“It is always our goal to make the latest technologies accessible to all of the communities served by our health system,” Dr. Pandolfino said. “Our close collaboration with our suburban and rural colleagues leads to better care for every patient.”