October 2008

2nd GE Healthcare Early Health Media Summit

The age old wisdom about healthcare says ‘prevention is better than cure’. While this notion is universally true, complexity in nature of diseases and dynamic unpredictability in their occurrence pattern are on a steady rise across the world. In such a situation, (while simultaneously factoring the rising cost for availing and provisioning healthcare services) early disease diagnosis and preventive healthcare practices are proving to be far more economical and socially responsive.

With this view, GE Healthcare (the USD 17 billion healthcare business of General Electric Company) has been working diligently for over the last few decades to bring technological innovations that can leverage early diagnosis of life threatening diseases and also develop low-cost, high quality medical devices that can substantially bring down healthcare costs around the world.

In order to showcase the latest healthcare innovations happening at GE and create a platform for knowledge exchange and experience sharing among senior leadership of the company and people from different media houses, GE Healthcare recently hosted its second annual ‘Early Health Media Summit’ between 25-26 September 2008 at the silicon valley of India.. Bangalore.

 V. Raja, President & CEO, GE Healthcare
(South Asia) delivering the opening Keynote

The event began with a pre-conference half day visit to the John F. Welch Technology Centre (JFWTC) and X-Ray manufacturing unit of GE, located in the Whitefield area in outskirts of Bangalore. This USD 120 million technology centre of GE is truly a place of distinction notably the biggest R&D facility of the company outside the US, employing nearly 3500 scientists and engineers, working on a wide range of technologies covering healthcare, bio-medical engineering, aviation, electronics, molecular modeling, materials research, engineering analysis, MEMS to name a few.

The facility tour guided by Mr. Ashish Shah, General Manager, Global Technology Organisation-India, JFWTC was one of awe and all inspiring. Emphasizing the tremendous contribution of the centre in leveraging GE’s global businesses, Mr. Shah said, “innovation is at the heart of GE and this centre, and that is what makes this place unique in its own way”. Talking about low cost healthcare innovations that have come out of the centre, Mr. Shah showcased the MAC 300 & 400 portable ECG machines, which are entirely designed, manufactured and distributed from Indiahaving features like high quality algorithm, embedded display screen (for MAC 400), extended battery life (100 ECGs on full charge), in-built micro printer, USB and telephonic interface ports all of this at one-third of standard ECG machines! Another notable instance, in the field of high technology work at this centre is the development and manufacturing of the highly sophisticated full suite Cath Lab machine. Developed, designed and manufactured completely at the Bangalore facility, this is known to be among the most advanced Cath Labs in the world, with an amazingly powerful and high precision table positioner having an adjustable limit of up to 120 microns a true demonstration of the technological prowess of this centre. The subsequent visit to X-ray manufacturing unit (located adjacent to JFWTC) proved to be another testimonial for the ingenuity and excellence achieved by GE in indigenous production of medical grade X-ray equipments. The level of technological sophistication, operational efficiency, advanced production techniques and global sourcing strategies implemented at the facility becomes evident as one takes a guided tour of the plant. Clockwork precision while maintaining highest quality standards are the fundamental work ethics followed at each and every department of the production unit to put into perspective, the recent release of the ‘Tejas XR 6000’ fully digital compatible X-ray machine of GE (under it’s ‘in India, for India’ initiative) is a product of this facility.

Dr. Jean Luc Vanderheyden
, Molecular ImagingLeader, GE
Healthcare delivering his lecture
on the potential of MI technologies
in advancement of healthcare

The second day of the event was earmarked for a full day conferencing, dotted with power packed presentations by senior GE utives and insightful panel discussions comprising eminent people from the government, private healthcare providers and non-profit community health organisations who are working in partnership with GE on various health programs.

The opening address by V. Raja, President & CEO, GE Healthcare, South Asia was an extremely insightful deliberation, providing a comprehensive vision of GE for continuously investing and innovating cutting-edge technologies in early health diagnosis. Sharing a couple of his own personal experiences regarding fatal implications of the lack of early disease diagnosis technologies, Mr. Raja mournfully mentioned the loss of his beloved cousin sister and elder brother whom he lost way back in his childhood. Highlighting the dire need for making healthcare affordable for masses, he emphasized the fact that India still has more than 700 million people living at less than US$ 2 per day of earning. Adding to this, he underlined the fact public health expenditure in India is currently dismally low “India is currently spending more on fossil fuels and external credit interest than that on healthcare” said Mr. Raja. Urging the government to channelise bigger allocation to healthcare he added, “healthcare spending should be seen as investment and not as expenditure, since health of the nation is one of the biggest asset for any country”. In this context, Mr. Raja highlighted the efforts of GE Healthcare in bringing indigenously produced, low cost, high quality diagnostic devices through its ‘in India, for India’ initiative. Some of the notable achievements in this direction are the launch of portable ECG machines, portable ultrasound devices, digital X-rays and Cath Lab equipments in the Indian market.

Dr. Sunitha Maheshwari, Paediatric
Cardiologist & HOD, Narayana
Hrudayalaya giving her presentation
on Clinical Imaging in Early Diagnosis
of Cardiac Diseases

While combating communicable diseases occupy a high priority in public health expenditure, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) do not generally get an appropriate attention. Speaking on this topic Dr. Ali Mehdi, Research Associate, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Research (ICRIER) commented on the widespread prence of NCDs, while bringing out the revelation (contrary to conventional belief) about its increasing occurrence pattern in rural areas as well. In this context, he reiterated the over-riding need for low cost diagnostic devices like those brought out by GE and its potential to make early healthcare affordable and accessible.

Presenting on the role of clinical imaging in paediatric cardiology, Dr. Sunitha Maheshwari from Narayana Hrudalaya, Bangalore, emphatically spoke about the revolutionary advancement in cardiology imaging technologies and the tremendous benefit rendered therein upon doctors. Reflecting on the increasing cost for healthcare services, she praised companies like GE for investing heavily on imaging and diagnostic technologies that is sure to reduce the financial burden on consumers by avoiding wasteful treatments and medical procedures. Moreover, she remarked, that imaging technologies are definitely going to bring a high degree of efficiency in healthcare services. Similar perspectives were also brought out by

Dr. Raghuram Ushalakshmi of KIMS
Hospital (Hyderabad) presenting
on Imaging Technologiesfor Breast
Cancer detection and treatment

Dr. Raghuram Ushalakshmi of KIMS Hospital, Hyderabad who spoke eloquently about his work at the Centre for Breast Diseases at KIMS and how diagnostic imaging is making early cancer detection and cure a possibility in the present day.

Probably, the most advanced form of imaging technology application is ‘molecular imaging’. In his highly insightful presentation, Dr. Jean Luc Vanderheyden, Molecular Imaging Leader in GE Healthcare showcased the fine art and intriguing science of this cutting edge realm of technology, which is taking healthcare into the next level. The potential with MI to study and understand real time activity of cellular and sub-cellular components is revolutionising traditional medicine. Custom made bio-molecules for targeted treatment of specific ailment in the human body and tailored drugs for individual patients depending on their biological or genetic make-up are a possibility with MI. Dr. Jean asserts his high hopes that GE will soon emerge as the global leader in MI technologies.

 A panel discusion in progress

Bringing focus on public private partnership (PPP) models and scrutinizing opportunities and challenges thereof to make it a viable mechanism to spread healthcare benefits to the masses, the panel discussion titled – ‘Driving Healthcare Access to all through PPP’ was apt and appropriate, particularly with an impressive line-up of panelists comprising Chandra Iyengar, Addl. Chief Secretary, Public Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of Maharashtra; Madan Mohan Upadhyay, Principal Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh; Dr. H Sudarshan, Hon. Secretary, Karuna Trust & Chairman, Task Force on PPP, NRHM, Govt. of India; Dr. Sunitha Maheshwari, Paediatric Cardiologist & HOD, Narayana Hrudalaya; Ashok Kakkar, VP-Government Relations, GE Healthcare. The hour long discussion of panel members and an active participation from the floor fructified into a list of recommendations for the PPP initiatives in healthcare. Some of these are better participatory partnership models with accountability and uation mechanisms, enhanced focus on scalability and replicability of projects across governments and geographies, unambiguity in communicating benefits to stakeholders and beneficiaries, respecting and recognizing the contribution of private players.

Dr. H K V Narayan, Medical
Superintendent, Tata Memorial Hospital
speaking on IT best practicesin
healthcare organisations

Talking about technology in healthcare is almost incomplete without mention of IT and communication technologies. Thus, the presentation of Clarence Wu, VP & GM, IT Solutions, GE Healthcare (Asia-Pacific) was an appropriate placement to give the proceedings a right mix. Highlighting the topic of Digital Imaging and Integration of Health Information, Clarence spoke at length about the ‘Centricity’ suite of solution from GE that can provide healthcare organisations with a robust, scalable and interoperable IT environment for seamless care and efficient workflow. Bringing a user perspective into this realm of Health IT, Dr. H K V Narayan, Medical Superintendent, Tata Memorial Hospital shared his experience in implementing a highly successful IT-based work environment at his facility, and reassured about the range of benefits accrued through increased efficiency gains, quality controls and cost savings in the long run.

V. Raja along with partners of GE
Healthcare’s rural health initiative

A series of insightful presentations followed from some of the prominent partners of GE Healthcare with contributions from Dr. Kishore Kumar, Director, Cradle; R Basil, MD & CEO, Manipal Health Systems; Dr. S S Ramesh, Cardiologist, Vivus Group of Hospitals and Dr. Padmanabha Reddy, NICE Foundation. Each one of them are trying in their own ways to maximise the reach of healthcare to the rural masses and help them to get access to diagnostic and curative medical service. While, Cradle is working for maternal infant care, Manipal Health is spreading health services through their rural extension centres. While Vivus is offering low cost cardiac care in rural Karnataka through their mobile heart unit, NICE Foundation is offering a helping hand for rural poor through their village health programs.

Overall, one must admit, that the summit proved to be a fantastic display of the hope for a healthy India!

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