GE Healthcare: Designing ‘affordable care’ products locally
Star Wars anti-hero Darth Vader is the last character you would expect to see at GE Healthcare’s Jack Welch Technology Centre in Bengaluru, the multinational’s largest research and development centre in the world.
But there he is, a tiny caricature of him, on a partitionscreen at the centre’s eCube global design studio that houses many healthcare solutions. From less-intimidating designs for CT scan labs to ultra-sonography simulators or cancer hospital prototypes that promise an efficient operational design, the effort here is aimed at patient comfort.
For instance, the healthcare solution could be a lab that houses a CT scan with its walls and ceiling awash with green forest imagery or a comforting spa, as required by the healthcare client attempting to make the patient less tense while going through a scan. The design is more engaging for children where the experience is woven into a story, possibly an adventure and the storytelling begins days before the child goes in for the actual scan, company officials explain.
It is the collaborative inputs from these scientists, engineers and designers at this centre that contribute towards locally designed and produced products that are shipped locally and overseas. The home-made CT scan, for example, is made for smaller spaces, consumes 47 per cent less electricity and is 40 per cent more affordable than a previous generation product. While this is used locally and abroad, the locally-made portable ultra-sound machine is not sold here because of provisions in the law. It is shipped to other countries.
GE Healthcare’s Global President and Chief Executive Officer Kieran Murphy observes that the way healthcare is delivered in the developed world is “unsustainable”. And GE Healthcare’s effort The eCube design studio
was to devise solutions that drive down cost, provide greater access and improve the outcomes for patients. Murphy was at the center this week, his first visit here after being elevated to the top job in June 2017.
Explaining the unsustainability in the system, Murphy says “Today, cost of healthcare in the developed markets is high as there is a lot of wastage in the system because drugs are administered in an inefficient way.” Across the world, diseases are diagnosed late and the by the
time tumours are identified in, for example, breast cancer cases in India, the treatment is late, it becomes more expensive and the chances of survival are less, he adds. Besides, “there are probably four-five billion people in the world who today don’t have access to healthcare. What we should be thinking about is how we can provide greater access,” he says.
“Our entire affordable care innovations from India are today driving healthcare access to millions of people in far corners of the country, and in markets like ASEAN and Africa. Similarly, our Oncology care area solutions is driving early detection, bringing cancer care closer to people in India. That’s why we highly regard the India model, and if it works, could be a model for the future,” he says.
Partnering on health
GE Healthcare has over 150 public-private-partnerships (PPP) in India. Citing similar work in Turkey and Africa, Murphy says, in early 2015, GE Healthcare was selected as a key technology partner for a wide-scale radiology infrastructure modernisation program aimed at transforming 98 hospitals across Kenya’s 47 counties to deliver sustainable healthcare. “This Managed Equipment Services (MES) illustrates what can be done at scale to shift from a system of procurement of healthcare equipment that was kind of obsolete because it did not satisfy the requirements that are essential to delivering service to patients in the long term with the highest level of equality and access,” he says.
“PPPs combine the social objectives of universal healthcare and business objective of running a profitable healthcare facility. They drive positive health outcomes at-scale, focus on access to quality healthcare and enhanced customer experience, but at rates which are significantly less than private diagnostic centers,” he explains.
As the $20 billion healthcare company stands poised to become a standalone business next year, Murphy says, India will continue to play an important role because, among other things, it houses the largest research and development centre where a lot of product innovation takes place.
And a snapshot of this innovation is revealed on the centre’s “Wall of fame” that holds pictures of their scientists who own patents on their work.
The writer was at the GE research centre on the invitation of the company
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