Advanced healthcare @low cost

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Nov 11 2013, 07:17am hrs
GE Healthcare, the $18 billion healthcare business of General Electric, sees immense potential in India due to the rise in chronic diseases where the companys products can play the role of a catalyst in curing them. GE targets to develop 100 low cost solutions in India to address Indias and worlds healthcare challenges in the area of cancer, cardiac diseases and maternal/infant care

Getting an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can be scary. It is a procedure used in hospitals to scan patients for detection of damaged ligaments, joint or spinal injury, or even cancer. Though the body exam itself is a painless procedure, it is the loud tapping noise in the long tube where the patient is laid down on a table that can become a major cause of discomfort. How loud Well, conventional MR scanners can generate noise in excess of 110 decibels levels, roughly equivalent to rock concerts.

Research and development (R&D) folks at GE Healthcare, Bangalore, have developed a new technology which has reduced the noise of MRI from a hammering sound to a mere whisper. Their Silent Scan technology is

designed to reduce MR scanner noise to near ambient (background) sound levels (77 decibels) and thus can improve a patients MR

exam experience. Historically, medical manufacturers have addressed the noise issue by muffling it using a combination of acoustic dampening material or performance degradation to reduce the noise level. Two years ago, GE engineers initiated their quest to reduce noise during an MRI scan. They developed a software a radically new type of 3D MR

acquisition, in combination with proprietary high-fidelity gradient and RF system electronics, and the noise is not merely dampened, it is virtually eliminated at the source.

Tom Gentile, president & CEO, Healthcare Systems, GE Healthcare, says, Silent Scan helps reduce anxiety and can give more peace of mind to patients, especially elderly, pediatric, and claustrophobic patients. As the name implies, it is an MRI that examines with minimal noise. Basically, our engineering team in Bangalore and the US have come up with a way to reconstruct the data from the magnetic fields in a way that it doesnt create noise. It uses sophisticated algorithms, high quality processed electronic and very precise radio frequency coils. We can certainly create an MR image without noise.

With expertise in diagnostic imaging, healthcare IT and life sciences, the $18 billion GE Healthcare is a unit of General Electric Company. Its broad range of products and services enable healthcare providers to better diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, neurological diseases, and other conditions earlier. The worlds leading medical equipment maker is now betting big on India. It sees immense potential here due to the rise in chronic diseases where the companys products can play the role of a catalyst in curing them. With its

local team in Bangalore, GE Healthcare is

focusing on providing more India-specific equipment such as low-cost MRI, portable

X-ray systems and monitoring systems.

We are focusing on some of the toughest healthcare challenges of Indialowering maternal and infant deaths; enable early detection of cancer for early treatment, addressing heart disease the burden etc. We design, develop and manufacture technologies in India for India and the world that will enhance access to quality healthcare at affordable costs to more people, says Tom.

GE Healthcare has been in the Indian

market since 1991. The R&D centre in Bangalore is the largest for GE in the world with 6,000 engineers and scientists. Over 1,600 of these scientists and engineers are dedicated for healthcare innovations and have developed over 125 innovations for the world with 25

affordable solutions for improving access in India and the emerging countries.

It is our number one development centre outside the United States, says Terri Bresenham, president & CEO of GE Healthcare India and South Asia. The firm has over 200 engineers and scientists in India dedicated for developing MR technologies, both software and hardware. Over 50% of all software for GE Healthcare equipment from around the world is developed in India, she informs.

While GE Healthcare sells high-end products and solutions in India like any other country, Indias consumerism and availability of great engineering talent has allowed it to re-look at the companys strategy to develop solutions in India, for India. These solutions have a great demand around the world, especially in countries where needs and conditions are similar. With great engineering talent and proximity to customers demanding super value, India is a great place for us to develop super value solutions for the world, says Tom.

For example, in maternal and infant care segment, GE Healthcare develops products like warmers for newborns and photo-therapy units treatment of jaundice in newborns at very low costas low as 70% compared to

imported products. It sells these technologies around the worldalmost in 70 countries

including Africa, South East Asia, Middle East, Latin America etc.

In X-ray, GE Healthcare has developed a new portable analog X-ray unit here in India, but that is something it is going to sell around the world. The company is developing a super value CT. A premium CT may have 256 slices and can certainly do a very sophisticated set of clinical examinations. However, a vast

majority of clinical exams can be performed using a eight slice CT and we are developing one in India, says Tom.

In ultrasound, GE Healthcare is developing its next generation portable ultrasound that will use tablet PC as the display. In MR, it is

developing gradient coils and tables for all its scanners around the world. In each segment, we have a range of product development programme on the way and leverage the engineering team in Bangalore for super value products, the GE Healthcare president informs. Last year we developed several super value products and so will be in the forthcoming years. We will develop 100 super value products in India by 2020 and I think we are well on the way to achieve our goal.

On the work undertaken at the GE Healthcare's Bangalore centre, Terri Bresenham says, We are focusing more on the affordable solutions. We have a tremendous amount of algorithms and intellectual properties. Some of that, we can take those and flow them down from a hardware perspective, its less expensive and take advantage of this know-how that we have at the high-end. If you look across GEs Healthcare business, about 50% of the software is designed here. So some of that technology when translated on to the lower cost platforms will lead to greater quality of care.

R&D folks at the GE Healthcare creative hotspot in Bangalore are truly at work for a healthier India.