Regardless of an increasingly ageing population and increasing incidence of chronic diseases, healthcare systems are being called upon to achieve more for less – part of worldwide austerity measures. Currently, 36 million of the 57 million deaths every year are from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – representing over 63 per cent of all global deaths. Six million children under 5 die each year.1
In this context, not only cost but the broader issue of affordability should be considered when assessing value for money. To make affordable interventions is necessary to understand the heath priorities of a given region, available infrastructure and appropriate resourcing. Investing in medical devices has been shown to reduce healthcare expenditure and contribute towards better patient outcomes. There is also growing evidence of the value of early diagnosis. A study concluded that for every $1 spent on imaging, $3 were saved in hospital care costs.2 With the right technology available, clinical and economic returns can be delivered, ensuring true value to populations and regions around the world.
In a panel discussion at the World Health Assembly’s annual meeting, Karim Karti, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for GE Healthcare, shared GE Healthcare’s commitment to develop technologies that address regional needs as well as environmental and cultural contexts. He explained GE Healthcare’s focus on ‘reverse innovation’- products designed to meet the needs of rural areas while also delivering healthcare value for developed countries.
The concept of reverse innovation was discussed further: product development designed to meet the needs of remote areas with little access to electricity and qualified healthcare workers. Vscan, Lullaby Warmer, and Lullaby LED Phototherapy were examples of cutting-edge technology designed to deliver value for both emerging markets and developed countries. These technologies help optimize the course of treatment for a patient and reduce the time required for a diagnosis.3
GE Healthcare’s approach to partnerships and how the value of technology could be realized through productive collaborations was also discussed. The recent collaboration involving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, RTI International, Columbia University, the University of Washington and GE Healthcare, was referenced as an example of how partnerships could improve pregnancy outcomes in some of the poorest countries of the world.
The discussion then turned to the importance of early diagnosis through technologies. Karim Karti explained that investing in these technologies in more developed areas remained a priority in order to help reduce the number of more expensive, invasive procedures later on. Nations are always searching for effective and cost-efficient ways to diagnose, treat and manage an increase in the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and non-communicable diseases (NCD).
The economic implications of NCDs are staggering. It is estimated that 50% of NCD-related deaths are during “productive years,” representing a significant cost to both governments and the commercial sector. It is believed that healthier individuals produce more output per hour worked leading to increased labor productivity.
New technology will play a significant role in the ability to solve current and future healthcare challenges. It is essential that health systems and governments worldwide recognize the total value that technological investment can bring to save lives and increase efficiency, as well as secure wider economic prosperity. Healthcare is an investment, not just a cost. By investing in technology infrastructure, a country will not only have a healthier workforce, it will have a healthier economy.
Karim Karti is the author of the new report: ‘Value For Money And The Drive To Develop Appropriate Medical Technology.’ To view it click here.
1 – Children: Reducing mortality, Fact sheet No 178, updated September 2013. World Health Organization website. Accessed 2 April 2014.http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs178/en/
2 – Molly Beinfeld and G Scott Gazell, 2005. Diagnostic Imaging Costs: Are They Driving Up the Costs of Hospital Care? Health Policy and Practice Volume 235, No.3. http://pubs.rsna.org/doi/pdf/10.1148/radiol.2353040473
3 – Compendium of innovative health technologies for low resource settings (2011-2013), World Health Organisationhttp://www.who.int/medical_devices/innovation/compendium_med_dev2013_2.pdf