Intel, GE partner on home health tech

Companies will focus on marketing and research new home-based health tech

Intel and General Electric have formed an alliance to market and create home-based health care technologies, in an effort to reduce health-care costs and allow elderly people to stay out of hospitals.

The two companies will invest US$250 million in the partnership over the next five years, officials with GE and Intel said Thursday. The partnership will focus on marketing the two companies' existing home health-care products and on research on new home health technology, such as health monitoring devices, they said.

There is a huge market for home health technology, particularly in countries with aging populations, Intel and GE officials said during a press conference. The U.S. and European market for telehealth and home health monitoring is predicted to grow from US$3 billion in 2009 to an estimated $7.7 billion by 2012, according to Datamonitor.

The partnership "allows us to reach more people, more quickly, with personal health care solutions," said Paul Otellini, Intel's president and CEO.

Home-based health technology can reduce costs by keeping people out of the hospital, added Jeff Immelt, GE's chairman and CEO.

A large portion of growing health-care costs in the U.S. are driven by people with chronic diseases, making up about half of the U.S. population, he said.

Home monitoring devices can help reduce the cost of care for people with chronic diseases, by reducing trips to the doctor or hospital, and by notifying health care providers when intervention is needed, he said.

Under the partnership, GE Healthcare Systems will sell and market the Intel Health Guide, a care management tool designed for health-care providers that manage patients with chronic conditions, in addition its own home health products.

One of GE's products is GE QuietCare, a remote activity monitoring system for seniors, alerting caregivers to potential emergency situations or emerging health problems. It is used primarily in assisted living facilities.

In addition, the two companies will work together on R&D projects, with the goal of accelerating the development of next-generation home health tech. GE believes home health tech is "in its infancy," said Omar Ishrak, president and CEO of GE Healthcare.

The U.S. Congress recently passed economic stimulus legislation that provides $19 billion for health IT, but much of that money is focused on electronic health records, Otellini said.

While e-health records are important, they're not sufficient to overhaul the U.S. health-care system, and home health care must be part of a plan to lower costs, he said.

"We need to start addressing the fact that health care has to go home," added Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Health Group.

"There have been tremendous advances in the hospitals, tremendous advances in the technology, now we need to enable our elders to age in place, with the right technology, with dignity."

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