Canon is contributing to better medical care by developing new diagnostic technology and utilizing healthcare IT.
With the global population continuing to simultaneously grow and age, the number of people aged at least 65 is expected to double to more than 1.4 billion by 2050. In Japan, around 40% of the population is predicted to be at least 65 by 2050. With people expecting to live healthily without any restrictions on daily activities even later in life, demand is rising for a wide range of healthcare services, from promotion of better health and prevention of disease to advanced personalized medicine. The global healthcare market is forecast to exceed ¥500 trillion by 2030.
The gap between average and healthy life expectancy is between five and ten years. Reducing this gap will be a major issue as society ages more rapidly in the future. Prevention, early detection and the treatment of disease are the keys to living healthily into old age. Preventing and detecting disease early can help curtail healthcare cost inflation in an aged society, which is an essential element in targeting greater sustainability.
Diagnostic accuracy is also a prerequisite for supplying high-quality medical services. To this end, there is a great need to make effective use of vast volumes of medical data and cumulative information on patients. Simplifying the challenges faced by health professionals will become a major issue in realizing a sustainable society.
Canon founder Takeshi Mitarai, who was also a doctor, was strongly committed to “contributing to society via medicine.” In 1940, not long after the company was established, Canon developed the first radiographic camera made in Japan to help detect pulmonary tuberculosis. Ever since, Canon has contributed to the early detection and treatment of disease by supplying ophthalmological instruments and diagnostic equipment using digital radiography and other technologies. During Phase V of its Excellent Global Corporation Plan, Canon is reinforcing medical operations as one of its new core businesses. In December 2016, the Canon Group accepted Canon Medical Systems (formerly Toshiba Medical Systems), the top supplier of CT scanners in Japan and ranked third in the world by market share in the field. Based on the company’s philosophy “Made for Life” that expresses the firm’s mission to contribute to medicine to protect human life, Canon Medical has built up technical expertise in diagnostic equipment such as CT, MRI and ultrasound systems, which reduce the burden on the patients. We aim to supply solutions for patients and health professionals by combining artificial intelligence (AI) with our proprietary image-processing technology to support better medical diagnoses and improve patient outcomes.
Canon’s Boston US-based Healthcare Optics Research Laboratory conducts research targeting technical advances in medical robotics, miniature endoscopic imaging and other fields in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital, an institution linked to Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Going forward, partnering with leading medical institutions in Japan and abroad, we plan to concentrate our resources on diagnostic imaging systems. We will also focus on the fields of healthcare IT – supplying advanced visualization tools, diagnostic support systems and network solutions, based on the latest ICT – and in vitro diagnostic systems for the rapid and precise analysis of blood and other patient samples.
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Canon Medical’s CT scanners have been recognized for their advanced diagnostic capabilities, high analytical efficiency, reduced burden to the patient, and lower lifetime operating costs. In 2007, the Aquilion ONE became the world’s first CT scanner to reproduce the movement of organs or blood flow using sequenced images. The latest models in the same series ensure that procedures are more patient-friendly due to less radiation exposure from quicker imaging and reduced usage of contrast agents. This should enhance substantially the utility of CT scanners with geriatric and pediatric patients and in intensive care situations. In 2017, the Aquilion ONE was awarded the Minister for Health, Labour and Welfare Prize as part of the government-instituted Grand Prize for Japanese Medical R&D. In the same year, we introduced the Aquilion Precision, an ultra-high resolution CT scanner that enables clear visualization of microstructures in the body.
In MRI scanners, responding to patient feedback about noise and compartment tightness, we have developed proprietary “Pianissimo” noise-reduction technology and redesigned the scanner so patients do not feel so enclosed. In other sectors, we are contributing to the early detection of disease with patient-oriented diagnostic equipment, including high-resolution ultrasound systems and a mammography system developed by an all-female team to minimize patient discomfort during the machine’s operation.
We continue to develop our healthcare IT solutions business to integrate, analyze and process diagnostic scans with various frontline medical data. We aim to boost the utility of such data with systems that support diagnostic analysis, using AI to process the collated medical data and an integrated platform to store, distribute and share patientrelated information. In January 2018, we introduced the Abierto series of medical data management solutions for the collection, collation, analysis and visualization of medical information. While delivering three types of customer value in terms of enhanced clinical value, better operating efficiency and higher enterprise value, we hope to contribute to improved medical care by forging stronger links with hospitals and local-community health professionals.
Applying our know-how in sensitive detection technology, Canon Medical is developing in vitro diagnostic systems that detect the tiny quantities of virus present in the early stages of an infection. Detecting viruses such as influenza accurately at an early stage is extremely useful to medical practitioners. We are working on a test kit that would only need the patient to sneeze into a paper tissue. Faster detection makes it possible to treat infections earlier, reducing the incidence of serious cases and limiting the spread of disease.
Canon Medical’s wide range of in vitro diagnostic systems for testing blood and other samples provide a range of clinical tests. With tropical viruses such as Ebola and Zika posing a growing global threat, we are also developing new DNA testing kits to help early detection of infections. Looking ahead, we will continue to work to make diagnostic tests less invasive for patients and more efficient by developing quicker tests requiring smaller samples.