Innovating gastric cancer detection: A cloud-based approach in partnership with municipality

Olympus, which holds a 70% global market share in gastrointestinal endoscopes, is utilizing its expertise to promote gastric cancer screenings through endoscopic methods. This includes a project where they have implemented a cloud-based screening system in partnership with a Japanese municipality. We spoke with Masakazu Kawamura of Olympus Medical Systems and Tatsuya Ishii of Olympus Marketing to understand how they are applying digital technology and AI to enhance the efficiency of endoscopic screenings.

Solving municipality’s endoscopic screening challenges with cloud technology

Many municipalities offer cancer screening services to their residents to aid in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. For detecting gastrointestinal cancers such as stomach cancer, endoscopic screenings are utilized. According to the “Quality Assurance Manual of Endoscopic Screening for Gastric Cancer in Japanese Communities” published by the Japanese Society of Gastrointestinal Cancer Screening, there's a required step of image interpretation. In this step, highly specialized doctors, separate to those who performed the screening, review the screening images for a second opinion. Conducting gastric endoscopic screenings on a large scale makes communication and the exchange of information necessary amongst various stakeholders. This includes the healthcare professionals who perform the screenings, those who review the images for a second opinion, and local government officials who manage the screening program.

In the past, healthcare professionals reviewing the images had to visit a central site for image interpretation set up by the local government to collect data, which was quite a burden. Furthermore, the exchange of screening data among the parties involved was done by the use of USB flash drives or CD-ROMs, leading to significant time and costs incurred in its preparation and delivery. The development of a cloud-based screening system was aimed to address these challenges.

Masakazu Kawamura, who led the development team, states, "By creating a centralized information platform in the cloud, we have significantly reduced the time and effort needed to exchange screening data." Kawamura explains further, "Now, healthcare professionals can review images more efficiently from their own hospital or home without having to travel to the site for image interpretation, thanks to secure access to the data."

Improving work efficiency with AI image reviews

In addition, this cloud-based screening system leverages cutting-edge AI technology. For high-quality endoscopic examinations, it is critical to obtain comprehensive, clear, and bright images of the stomach's interior, free of mucus or other substances. The AI automatically verifies the quality of these images.

Tatsuya Ishii, who oversees marketing for the system, explains how much the AI's verification feature aids in operational efficiency. "In the extensive amount of review work required by population-based screenings, doctors evaluating the images must be extra cautious to ensure that the endoscopic images are properly taken and check for any missing details. The AI's ability to assess the suitability of these images has made the healthcare professional’s review process much more efficient," Ishii notes.

Furthermore, since a healthcare professional's accuracy of diagnosis can vary based on their level of experience, this technology also helps in eliminating the disparity of skill levels. Ishii believes that "enhancing the precision of endoscopic screenings with AI not only improves the process but ultimately provides greater value to patients."

Contributing to increasing cancer screening rates

This cloud-based screening system is now being implemented in a major city's population-based gastric cancer screening initiative. Ishii mentions that this city has high hopes for the system's contribution towards streamlining the process of endoscopic screenings and enhancing the overall system and its mechanism.

The goal of promoting cancer screenings among residents to facilitate early detection and treatment is a shared objective across various municipalities. "Municipalities are quickly expanding their cancer screening efforts. In this light, Olympus is looking to provide support not just through endoscopic equipment but also IT solutions," Kawamura states.

In addition, the analysis of extensive data gathered in a standardized format via this system could potentially lead to improvements in the precision of endoscopic examinations and the overall effectiveness of the cancer screening process.

"This potential for enhanced precision and efficiency is a significant benefit of the system," Kawamura believes.

Broadening the reach of cancer screenings plays a crucial role in safeguarding the well-being of many people, which is in line with Olympus' purpose of “Making people's lives healthier, safer, and more fulfilling.” Olympus is actively setting up digital solution development centers around the world and driving forward with the development of medical systems. By leveraging innovations in AI and other technologies, Olympus is committed to bolstering the development of digital tools that support healthcare professionals and minimize patient discomfort as much as possible.

* This story is based on interviews conducted in February 2024.