GE spearheads affordable healthcare for all in rural India

September 27th, 2008 - 11:19 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Sep 27 (IANS) General Electric (GE) Healthcare has embarked on an ambitious mission to take modern healthcare to semi-urban and rural areas of India, make treatment affordable and disseminate the message that prevention is better than cure.As part of its global initiative to usher in early health for all, the $17 billion GE healthcare business has tied up with Bangalore-based Manipal Heart Institute, and NGOs Nice Foundation and Vivus to run mobile clinics, conduct health camps and provide treatment to the needy at affordable cost.

In partnership with Grameen Health of Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank, pioneered by Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunus, the global healthcare equipment maker will build sustainable healthcare delivery models for the developing world.

“Early detection of life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular and cancer has become imperative to curb mortality rate in developing world, including India and other South Asian countries. Diagnostic imaging and clinical monitoring hasten investigation and affordable treatment,” GE Healthcare India chief executive V. Raja told IANS.

In the absence of quality and affordable healthcare to masses in the Indian sub-continent, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, GE and its partners will provide diagnostic and clinical monitoring equipment, expertise and training to doctors, specialists, paramedics and nurses to reap the benefits of medical technology.

“Inadequate health delivery and poor finance mechanism burden the poor and sick. We are also partnering with state governments to roll out PPP (public-private partnership) projects and innovative product solutions to make healthcare affordable,” Raja pointed out.

With Manipal Heart Institute, GE Healthcare has launched a cardiac screening programme through three mobile vans equipped with portable, battery operated ultrasound systems, emergency support care systems and healthcare personnel in remote villages of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

“In the pilot phase spanning six months, about 57,000 normal, asymptomatic patients were screened at 642 camps across the three southern states. Of them, 1,558 patients were found to have severe cardiac risk, which would have gone un-noticed till a heart attack would have occurred. In all, 833 of them were treated at our heart institute to lead a healthy life,” Manipal Health Systems managing director R. Basil said.

The programme is also helping to identify the type of solution required for addressing early detection of cardiac disease in remote areas.

Similarly, GE Healthcare is working with Nice Foundation to develop a sustainable and replicable model for maternal infant care by providing its high-tech medical equipment to the latter’s neo-natal hospital in Hyderabad.

“Access to neonatology expertise and technology is limited in India, as evident from the high infant mortality and neonatal mortality rates. For every 1,000 babies born, 57 percent suffer infant mortality and 1.2 million infants die in the first month. Every minute a mother dies though preventable. Though one of the most neglected care areas, 25 percent of the world’s childbirth happens in India,” GE Clinical Systems vice-president Ganesh Prasad said.

Going forward, Nice will work with the Andhra Pradesh government to set up six neonatal centres of 10 beds and 10-12 staff with GE Healthcare equipment. An expert cardiologist and endocrinologist will visit once in a fortnight o monitor patients.

“The model focuses on healthcare deserts, areas where there is no such facility for mothers and babies in one of life’s most critical stages. Under the model, mother and infant care suites will be set up in remote areas of Andhra Pradesh on a pilot basis for replication elsewhere in the country subsequently,” Nice chief executive Padmanabha Reddy said.

The model centres will be equipped with baby warmers and photo-therapy systems for newborns, hygienic labour suites and operating theatres for proper delivery care. Free care will be provided for tribal people.

With Vivus, GE Healthcare runs the country’s first mobile cardiac treatment facility to rural Karnataka for providing heart care at the doorstep of villagers.

The state-of-the-art mobile cardiac van (cathlab) is built as a trailer with hygienic operation room and fitted with mobile angiography system to perform screening and surgery.

“Cathlabs are present only in big towns across India, which makes rural patients to travel long for screening and treatment. Our trailer goes select villages in five districts in the southern parts of the state on weekends for check-ups in the mobile cathlab. About 1,000 angiograms have been performed during the last three months,” Vivus Hospitals founder S.S. Ramesh said.

With Grameen Health, GE Healthcare will evaluate ways to improve the existing healthcare delivery systems and primary care clinics in Bangladesh and identify business model for replication in other developing countries through Grameen Bank’s unique micro-finance system.

The micro-finance healthcare delivery model is aimed at meeting the need of four billion people the world over with less than an annual income of Rs.100,000 per annum.

As partner, GE will test delivery of sustainable ultrasound capability in rural clinics for early detection of abnormalities, especially in maternal care. Through this pilot project, we will train providers in the usage of ultrasound, evaluate the product, training and the workflow to deploy the technology in other developing countries,” GE Clinical Systems president Omar Ishrak said.

At a day-long second early health summit Friday, experts from cardiology, neo-natal care, oncology, scientists and academia expressed concern over the growing healthcare divide and debated over the role of PPPs in replicating healthcare models that are sustainable and affordable.

GE’s lead scientist Jean Luc Vanderheyden told the participants that molecular imaging was one of the disruptive technologies that would change the way healthcare was going to be delivered in future.

“It is a powerful technique that takes advantage of advances in biology, chemistry and technology, besides discoveries in gene and protein sciences,” Vanderheyden added.

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