GE Health­care: De­sign­ing ‘affordable care’ prod­ucts lo­cally

The Hindu Business Line - - PULSE - PT JYOTHI DATTA

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

Test­ing new meth­ods

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