Guerbet’s Jared Houk on the evolution of medical imaging, the impact of AI, and the importance of clinical engagement.

You have worked in medical imaging for the majority of your career. How have you seen the sector evolve over that time?  

I have witnessed the medical community really embrace AI applications in recent years. When AI  was first introduced, there was a healthy amount of skepticism from many healthcare professionals. This was especially the case in diagnostic imaging, which is natural due to the critical nature of imaging. Gradually, imaging professionals (particularly radiologists) warmed to the technology, as  workflow benefits were introduced and proven at both the modalities and reading stations.

Where do you see AI making the greatest impact in radiology?  

Right now, there are immense workflow benefits coming from AI applications. The ability to assist radiologists, technologists, and physicians in their daily activities is one of the leading benefits of AI.  These applications are helping healthcare professionals be more productive and focus their efforts  on patient care. With the continued staffing and workload issues stressing health systems, improvements in the workflow can significantly impact the productivity of a radiology department.

What most excites you about your role with Guerbet?  

Having recently joined Guerbet, I am very excited about the direction of their healthcare IT strategy and how the organization has embraced the development of AI applications. Guerbet has a long history of being a leader in innovation in both the diagnostic imaging and interventional imaging space, particularly in the development of contrast media. We are now using our expertise to develop digital and AI solutions that are focused on all aspects of the imaging process.

How important is clinician engagement to your product development cycle?  

When developing solutions that will benefit health systems, it is critical to understand the challenges facing a wide variety of specialties. At Guerbet, we include clinicians in all aspects of our development process. Our development team values the unique perspective clinicians provide, and we continually work with our healthcare partners to advance the development of solutions. Guerbet has even gone over and beyond by creating an AI Advisory Board, stocked with world-class clinicians, skilled in the advanced principles of artificial intelligence in medicine.

How would you characterize the readiness of the market for AI-powered solutions? Where do you see the barriers to adoption?  

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the focus and priorities of health systems, as they seek to optimize their workflow to handle patient influx. At the same time, institutions are continually seeking applications that can increase productivity and decrease time spent on administrative/process-oriented tasks. It is this combination that will drive the readiness of the market, as the FDA has become more aggressive in clearing new AI products for market inclusion. As it relates to the barriers to adoption, I believe that AI applications (particularly the more advanced clinical apps) will continue to receive pushback until there is a critical mass of clinical data supporting the applications.

Early in your career, you worked for a digital X-Ray manufacturer, how have you seen  medical imaging evolve since then?

The expansion of IT and digital applications have transformed how health systems operate. Early in my career, I helped promote digital imaging modalities (CR and DR) and PACS software. The movement from traditional film media to digital platforms allowed health systems to expand their coverage, better integrate health records, and better connect patients to radiologists, both locally and worldwide. As we are now witnessing the landscape shift due to COVID-19, health systems will need to adjust their approach and consider taking the treatment to the patients, as more and more consumers are now willing to forgo any trips to their local health care provider.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?  

I have had the opportunity to work with many established healthcare professionals. Early in my career, I had a manager that would always say “No one is going to save us.” It was his way of telling our group to work together to solve problems as a team and to not rely on outside resources. I have carried the importance of developing strong teams with me throughout my career, which is one reason I am excited to join Guerbet. Our digital team is one of the most accomplished in our industry, and they have developed an excellent culture for pushing the advancement of AI  applications.

Jared Houk is Vice President, North America at Guerbet. In this role, he oversees and ensures the growth of Guerbet diagnostic and interventional solutions together with the digital and AI portfolio.

Jared has more than 16 years of leadership experience in healthcare. Prior to joining Guerbet, Houk served as Senior Vice President and North American Business Leader at AGFA where he launched and managed the Radiology Solutions division in North America, driving revenue gains across various economic climates and challenges, including significant growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.