When it comes to digital solutions, expect the unexpected

Former camera manufacturer, Fujifilm, is set to be the new face of medical tech in the Middle East

When it comes to digital solutions, expect the unexpected

Long gone are the days when Fujifilm was known only as one of the world’s foremost camera and photographic film manufacturers. Fujifilm released the first digital x-ray imaging and diagnostic machine in 1982, marking the company’s first step toward diversification. Over the past thirty-eight years, the company has expanded its production line to providing additional imaging applications. Now, Fujifilm is at the helm of an even more formidable market breakthrough in the healthcare sector, with connected diagnostic technology. We spoke with Chihiro Sasaki, Divisional Manager for Medical and Healthcare, Fujifilm Middle East, to learn about the brand’s success expanding its product offerings to AI healthcare solutions.

Heading the Endoscopy, Ultrasound, IVD, Modality and Medical Systems Information Technology, Sasaki explained that medical imaging machinery comprised 43 percent of the company’s offerings in 2019 alone, part of Fujifilm’s 24 billion USD turnover. Fujifilm’s portfolio of health tech has shown significant growth since 2001; earlier, medical systems comprised only 12 percent of the company’s product line, while 54 percent remained the majority of its general imaging products. 

Fujifilm’s new forays in healthcare don’t stop at diagnostic imaging, but cover a wide range of medical products including radiopharmaceuticals, for which the company draws on its historic expertise in photographic tools manufacturing. “Fujifilm has applied its expertise in photographic equipment manufacturing to diagnostic imaging equipment, such as X-ray, ultrasounds and endoscopy machines, as well as additional medical IT systems,” reflected Sasaki. Its radiopharmaceuticals are another line of products that assist with diagnostic processes, due to their ability to detect signs of serious tumors early-on in organs such as the lungs and brain, thereby increasing opportunities for successful treatment interventions by healthcare providers. 

To reach this level of new success, Fujifilm has been steadily investing in the medical health industry in companies across Japan, US and Europe over the last ten years, including Diosynth in the United Kingdom, local Japan Tissue Engineering Company, and Denmark’s Biogen Manufacturing, among others. Sasaki sees Fujifilm as the pioneer in healthcare among digital technology innovators, and with its foray into medical imaging, the company is also making innovative contributions to connected health through the use of AI technology.

Sasaki described how the company conducted new research to move from photography to diagnostic imaging equipment. “AI facilitates intuitive machine learning, and with that, the capacity to improve healthcare practices and functions, making it possible to examine large quantities of diverse data,” insisted Sasaki. To support the implementation of new technology in the healthcare sector, Fujifilm does more than provide equipment, continued Sasaki. “We provide educational training as well, and programs, to show healthcare providers like nurses, radiologists, physicians, surgeons and biomedical engineers how to implement and maximize new technology to improve medical care.”

Speaking of the relevance of the company’s corporate tagline “value from innovation” for the Middle East, Sasaki identified the main serious diseases in the region as breast, lung, and colon cancers. Fujifilm provides connected health tech solutions in mammography, CT scans, and endoscopy machines, for each disease respectively, in order to catch illnesses early and improve treatment rates. Sasaki discussed the conference and training opportunities Fujifilm holds so buyers and healthcare providers at all levels fully understand the full functionality of the company’s product offerings. In 2019 Fujifilm created a coworking space in Tokyo known as ‘Brains,’ bringing together global experts, including clinicians and academicians in the field of AI diagnostic health. It is training and learnings from such brainstorming spaces that the company will share globally as well as bring to the Middle East in an advisory and strategy capacity. 

“We are suppliers, trainers, and we provide solutions – not just equipment – so we can positively inform national healthcare programs around the world.” 

Connected diagnostic imaging saves lives, by increasing the accessibility of diagnostic images. Not only do new machine technologies take superior images with greater clarity of disease area identification, through digitalization, images can be shared between medical professionals with greater speed, thereby increasing the efficiency and reducing the probability of error in the diagnostic chain. Whether it’s x-rays, ultrasounds, mammograms, or endoscopies, all medical images become part of a digital networking system, accessible to healthcare providers as they need, across surgery through to the therapeutic stages.  

Thinking ahead, Sasaki expects AI to automatically pick up and detect disease, helping healthcare providers with improved diagnostic accuracy. Sasaki also sees AI health technology as a solution to the global shortage of medical professionals and a means for targeting inequality in access to healthcare in many parts of the world. “Doctors are overworked due to the demands of the profession keeping them on their feet all day. Their performance can often drop as the day progresses, because of physical and mental exertion, due to the long hours and multiple patients and procedures. In the next 30 years, we’ll see AI removing any potential human error – because AI doesn’t tire.” 

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Beginning in 1934 as Japan's pioneering photographic film maker, Fujifilm has leveraged its imaging and information technology to become a global presence known for innovation in healthcare, graphic arts, optical devices, highly functional materials and other high-tech areas.