GE and Intel are teaming to market and develop home-based health-care technologies to drive down costs of health care.
The CEOs of both companies, Jeff Immelt of GE and Intel's Paul Otellini, announced the alliance in which GE Healthcare will sell and market the Intel Health Guide, a tool designed for health-care professionals who manage patients with chronic conditions, a growing problem due to an aging population, according to the companies.
Intel and GE estimate the market for telehealth and home health monitoring will grow to $7.7 billion by 2012, from $3 billion this year. Intel's Otellini said technology needs to become a bigger part of home health care as costs continue to escalate while the population continues to age.
"The staggering costs are bankrupting families, crippling business and stagnating the economy," Otellini said. Health-care costs have doubled from 1996, and American businesses are losing the ability to provide quality health care to employees, Otellini added.
One in three American adults now provides care for chronically sick or disabled family members, Otellini said.
"By 2030, 70 million people, or 20 percent of the population, will be 65 or older," he said. "They will require care from families and friends. We don't have enough facilities, doctors or nurses to provide that health care. The good news is there is not just a growing recognition of the problem, but an emerging will to solve it."
GE's Immelt said more health care must be done outside the home, and IT companies can help pave the way.
"It's always been our belief that information technology and getting technology in home is an effective way to treat chronic [illness] over time," Immelt said. "As you look at home health space, it's always been about marrying IT, low-cost devices, in a business model working with payers and consumers that continues to drive disciplines, efficiencies and costs down."
Intel and GE plan to invest $250 million over five years in personal health-care technology initiatives and develop global R&D partnerships for integration and therapy compliance, Immelt said.
"This is the first step in a big-scale business as time goes forward," Immelt said. "Partnerships are all about speed, scale and standards. Working together we can be faster to market and bigger faster."
The Intel Health Guide allows patients to measure their own blood pressure and other vital signs, and the data will be forwarded on to a health-care provider. It compelements the GE QuietCare system, which monitors patients' vital signs remotely using electronic sensors.
"The QuietCare product is the tool we're using to get in that [independent living] marketplace. It is activity monitoring. It is intelligent and adaptive, self-learning," said Omar Ishrak, president and CEO of GE Healthcare. "It provides alerts to caregivers to prevent [problems]. It also provides trending. If a person under that system changes their [routine], we will see the effect of this straightaway."
The Intel Health Guide and GE QuietCare tools are unobtrusive tools that can improve health care for seniors in their homes, Ishrak said.
"Our agreement is to put our resources together, our complementary assets, all striving toward better quality care. The commitment is for $250 million, but we believe this space is in its infancy. Together, we can develop the market and provide better care as people grow older," Ishrak said.
For example, Ishrak noted that falls among the elderly can be deadly as resulting injuries can greatly impact quality of life and accelerate the aging process.
"The ability to detect a fall quickly and provide care immediately is important. QuietCare does that today. Technology can predict a fall. There are algorithms available to predict that a person may fall. By knowing that, we can improve exercise habits, provide walking aids to prevent the fall from happening," Ishrak said.
The health-care alliance is not directly related to any initiative around an economic stimulus package, Immelt said. Both companies said the alliance has been in the works for a long time.
"This is more about the need to drive efficiency, quality and access in health care. The only way to drive higher quality and lower cost is through technology. This provides a gateway to driving that in the future," Immelt said.
Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Health Group, said the ability to scale today's health-care systems won't be able to keep up with an increasing and aging population. He noted there are 600 million people in the world age 60 or above and that number will double by 2025.
"We need to work together to address that," Burns said. "When you see a 75-year-old person walk up to an Intel Home Guide, having never a PC in their life, and engage it, shows that we have made it work."
In the U.S., Intel and GE are working directly with insurance companies such as Aetna, as well as hospitals and other health-care providers, Burns said.
Security for all the data sent to and stored at a health-care provider's IT infrastructure will meet federal guidelines, Burns said.
"The technology, we won't talk about. Let's just say we're good with the security and privacy aspects in line with government requirements in every country we're in," he said.
Intel doesn't expect all doctors to fall in love with the system, but Burns said over time the results will overcome the skepticism.
"We had a very skeptical doctor in a lead pilot. He went from a skeptic to an evangelist by seeing the ability of elders to feel safe. That generation doesn't complain. They put up with aches and pains. We can get in front of that," he said.
In one early deployment, an elderly man's blood pressure started to increase several days in a row. Using Health Guide, the doctor noticed it and was able to respond.
"[The patient] was on his way to a heart attack, but he didn't want to say anything. We prevented the heart attack, and it was done at a really low cost," Burns said. "Doctors are trying to deliver good care. Some skeptics will go in, but many will become evangelists."