Bayer, Google partner on AI for time-pressed radiologists

Bayer radiology

Bayer has joined forces with Google Cloud to continue development of an artificial intelligence-powered platform to help radiologists diagnose patients quicker and more effectively and harness medical imaging data for R&D.

Google Cloud will provide tools such as generative AI (GenAI) to automate tasks, freeing up radiologist time to focus on their patients, and also to delve into the datasets generated using the platform.

Bayer has been working on the radiology platform for a couple of years, creating an ecosystem that allows it and other organisations to build AI-powered apps that assist radiologists in reviewing images from X-ray, MRI, CT, and ultrasound scans. It has a growing list of tools to help radiologists detect and quantify disease lesions in medical images and select patients for treatment in order of priority.

Medical imaging accounts for around 90% of all healthcare data, and its growing importance as a diagnostic tool is hiking the demand for radiology expertise. However, a shortage of radiologists, who often face severe overwork, is placing pressure on health services around the world. And that pressure can lead to diagnostic errors, with a 2018 study suggesting that there are 40 million errors involving imaging worldwide every year.

Last month, the American College of Radiology (ACR) said there was an acute shortage of radiologists across the US, with more than 1,400 positions currently advertised on its jobs board.

The pressure on radiologists could be alleviated with the use of supportive AI tools that can handle and analyse the enormous amount of imaging data efficiently, according to Bayer and Google Cloud.

“Radiologists and other clinicians face burnout due to the sheer volume of work they face every day,” said Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud. “GenAI can help tackle repetitive tasks and provide insights into massive data sets, saving valuable time and helping to positively impact patient outcomes.”

The first version of the new platform – intended for “extended testing” – will launch later this year in the US and Europe, said the partners.

Bayer is a major player in the radiology sector, developing and selling injection and infusion systems used in medical imaging procedures, as well as contrast media to enhance images, as well as management software. The division has sales of around €2 billion a year, accounting for around 11% of its pharma sales, with its AI capabilities expanded by the acquisition of Blackford Analysis last year.

According to the company, AI is the fastest-growing market segment within the overall global medical imaging market, with a current value of around $400 million in 2021 and an annual growth rate of 26%, which should drive it to almost $1.4 billion in 2026.