Building on a previous alliance, General Electric and Intel have created a formal joint venture to develop healthcare technologies aimed at making life easier for chronically ill patients.

The new venture will be headed by Louis Burns (above), chief executive of the venture. He is currently vice president in charge of Intel’s health division. GE’s Omar Ishrak will be chairman of the new venture. Ishrak (below) is currently senior vice president and CEO of GE Healthcare Systems.

In April, 2009, the two companies got together to create handheld patient monitoring systems for doctors and nurses in hospitals.At that time, GE and Intel pledged to invest $250 million in the products and research for the alliance over the next five years.

Now they plan to take those technologies and develop a broader line of products. Burns said that Intel has been working on digital health issues for more than five years. It spent time visiting more than 1,000 elderly patients in their homes as part of its research into creating technologies that allow doctors to monitor patients from afar. In conjunction with that, Intel has created systems for monitoring patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic ailments.

“This joint venture sets the stage for improving healthcare for millions while at the same time reducing healthcare costs,” Ishrak said.

The companies will combine the assets of GE Healthcare’s home-health division and Intel’s digital health group. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The goal is to allow people to live independently and occasionally check in for status monitoring via remote technologies. The technologies required to do the monitoring include sensor systems — from heartbeat monitors to ultrasound — as well as communications technologies such as wireless networking, internet video, and handheld computing units. Burns and Ishrak said in a webcast that taking care of the elderly in their own homes is key to reducing doctor visits and overall costs.

The joint venture, based near Sacramento, Calif., will be equally owned by Intel and GE and will be fully operational by the end of the year. The joint venture will focus on chronic disease management, independent living, and assistive technologies. Products already available include the Intel Health Guide, Intel Reader (for blind people), and GE Healthcare’s QuietCare, pictured right. The QuietCare device has a touchscreen that patients can use to monitor their own health based on feedback from sensors placed on their bodies, in the privacy of their own home.