Intel and General Electric team up on healthcare products

Intel and General Electric announced today that they have teamed up to deliver personal health care products and services to patients in their homes. Both companies will invest $250 million in the products and research over the next five years.

Intel chief executive Paul Otellini and GE CEO Jeff Immelt announced the alliance in a press conference this morning, where they said the goal is to use technology to attack the rising costs of health care. They hope to do so by applying remote monitoring technologies that allow patients to stay in their homes (instead of hospitals) for longer periods of time.

“To address chronic care costs, you have to address it in the home,” Immelt said.

GE has a relatively small business in home health products already. But the idea is to marry information technology, low-cost devices and services that can drive health care costs down.

Otellini said that Intel has been doing research in health care for 10 years in 100 clinics across 20 countries. The company has learned that keeping patients in their homes for as long as possible is key to reducing expensive hospital care costs, and that monitoring patients with remote technology lets them live independently but still receive necessary supervision. It has also concluded that preventive care can reduce the likelihood of unexpected complications that lead to high care costs.

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, dubbed this strategy “shift left,” meaning the more you shift health care control into the hands of patients, the more you reduce costs.

Intel and GE will combine their R&D efforts on health care on a global scale. Both companies have the heft to dramatically lower costs, Immelt said, adding that it isn’t just about tapping into stimulus bill money.

GE has a product for monitoring patients from afar dubbed QuietCare. Patients can use a touch-screen to monitor their own health based on feedback from sensors placed on the body in the privacy of home. The sensors can detect whether someone has fallen down, and notify authorities accordingly. Intel offers its HealthGuide product as well. The device connects to wired and wireless sensors that can process health-related data and track it over time. It then provides information for both patients and caregivers.

One focus for both companies will be to set standards for information health care devices. Otellini said that they are also both working with insurance companies to facilitate approval of long-distance medical monitoring.

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