NEW YORK – General Electric Co. and Intel Corp. have announced a joint venture that could help curb ever-rising health-care costs. The two companies plan to develop devices that will allow health-care workers to monitor the sick andelderly in their homes, an area that could become a multibillion dollar business.
General Electric Co. and Intel Corp. have announced a joint venture to develop and market home health-care products such as the GE QuietCare Telecare solution that uses wireless sensors – such as the one in the corner of the room in the photo at left – to “learn” seniors’ normal daily routines and to alert caregivers of any deviations from the routine, possibly indicating a fall or early signs of illness.
“GE’s strategy is to invest in high-growth businesses with global potential,” said Agnes Berzsenyi, general manager of GE Healthcare’s Home Health Business. “Demographic changes, such as the growing aging population, present enormous health-care challenges in the care of seniors and the management of chronic disease.”
The prospective devices could aid in disease management as well as facilitate independent living, she said. These are sizable markets. In 2001, people with chronic conditions accounted for 83 percent of health-care spending and 81 percent of inpatient stays. With respect to independent living, the aging population continues to grow. Currently, 518 million people worldwide are 65 and older.
The two companies already offer products to meet these needs. GE Healthcare markets the GE QuietCare Telecare solution that uses wireless sensors much like those in home security systems to “learn” seniors’ normal daily routine – for example, the number of visits to the bathroom, refrigerator usage and whether or not they have taken medication. Software analyzes the data and notes any deviations from the normal routine, which could indicate a fall or early signs of illness. The system alerts caregivers by phone, pager, e-mail or the Internet if it detects a potential problem, thus enabling earlier intervention than would be possible otherwise.
Intel markets the Health Guide, which allows doctors to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure and weight remotely and to send reminders to patients – when to take medicine, for instance. Remote monitoring reduces the number of visits to the doctor’s office, minimizing the costs of those visits.
GE has announced that it will take over distribution and marketing of the Health Guide. In addition, the two companies will work together to develop and commercialize next-generation home health-care technologies. Berzsenyi said they also plan to expand their existing development programs to include new areas such as fall prevention, medication compliance, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and personal wellness monitoring.
Intel decided to link up with GE because the latter company is well established with institutional buyers such as hospitals and insurance companies, the primary market for such devices. GE also is a major manufacturer of medical imaging devices such as MRI scanners.
The companies plan to invest $250 million in the home health-care venture over the next five years. They estimate that the market demand for such products currently is $3 billion a year and anticipate that that figure will increase to $7.7 billion by 2012.