GE Healthcare working towards cheaper tools, tech

ashish-shahThat is what GE Healthcare is driving at,” said Mr Ashish Shah, General Manager-Health Care Technology, Bangalore.

Such pricing would mean 30 to 50 per cent lower costs for patients and hospitals.

ECG machine is just one of the many products the health care major has marked for tweaking and “cost cutting” for its consumers in India and other emerging markets. Prices of ECG machines have dropped from around Rs 80,000 three years ago to Rs 35,000-50,000 and could touch Rs 25,000 in a few months, he said.

“We are working on a lot of products for India and global markets. The idea is to lower the costs and increase access to all, while keeping quality and patient safety the same,” Mr Shah told Business Line.

The impact of the innovations should be seen in three to 18 months, he said during an interaction at the annual GE TechFest held at the John F. Welch Technology Centre.

The $175-million (around Rs 875-crore) centre, set up in 2000, is one of GE’s four global research hubs. It has the largest research activity for health care innovations with 1,200 engineers.

Mr Shah said the health care lab got Rs 100 crore to expand this year, in addition to a recent infusion of Rs 200 crore. “All this in a globally tough year, although I should say recession hasn’t really touched healthcare,” he said.

In May, the global major announced a $6-billion initiative with a plan to bring out 100 new, low-cost medical products mainly for the developing world.

The Bangalore centre has produced two low-cost innovations with local inputs – a baby warmer at 70 per cent lower cost and an ultrasound machine at 20 per cent lower tab.

During TechFest, the four R&D global centres showcase their innovations in the areas of power, aviation and healthcare. GE Healthcare alone hires around 200 engineers each year and is recruiting a batch of 70 – freshers and experienced people. “We are also designing a low-cost chromatography machine (to separate proteins),” Mr Shah added.

The Indian health care arm has said it expects to double its turnover to $1 billion (around Rs 5,000 crore) by 2010, up from fiscal 2008.