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Innovation Needs to be Adopted, Not Just Built, Says CEO


John Dineen, President and Chief Executive of GE Healthcare.

In a revealing interview with the UK’s Health Service Journal (HSJ), John Dineen, CEO of GE Healthcare says innovative technology needs to be adopted, not just designed and built, for healthcare systems to reap rewards in what he calls ‘the healthcare revolution’. 

“If I launch new technology I want to be able to get it into the market place. There are always governments who say ‘I want you to build here’, but they don’t consume.”

Slow translation of innovation into implementation is slowing down the improvement of patient healthcare pathways in some markets. Speaking to HSJ’s editor, Alastair McLellan, John explained: “If the UK wants to drive an industry in personalized, molecular medicine they’ve got to be the faster adopter of these new technologies.”

He went on to express that markets must commit to the use of new technology in order for them to reap early advantage. “If we pilot something (in the UK) and it works – and we see this a lot, we have to go to the next hospital and pilot it again. In China, there is a democracy of ideas, but one wins.”

The article says that Mr Dineen’s job gives him a rare opportunity to judge the relative effectiveness of healthcare systems across the world.  He says he assesses a system on three measures – quality, cost and access – and divides nations between those that are the best at balancing the three factors and those that fail or excel at any particular one. France and Germany are the role models among the “balancers” and in general, “European systems are better at access.” The US scores “very poorly” on cost, but can deliver the best quality care available…. As for the leader on cost, Mr Dineen turns to India, “the most Darwinian healthcare system in the world.” “The Indian consumer is a tough buyer” he says approvingly, “he will shop around and go from one clinic to another…”

Three technology trends in the healthcare revolution

1)     Molecular Medicine

With John’s original degree in biology and genetics, HSJ’s editor detected him warming to the subject of molecular medicine, the first of three technology trends which the CEO explains will have a huge influence on healthcare in the next decade:

‘The foundation of pharmaceutical treatments is changing from “chemistry to biology”. Therapies based on stem cell or monoclonal antibodies are being developed to target specific types of disease. These are producing “great results” in areas such as melanoma and lung cancer, according to Mr Dineen, but they are “really expensive”. It is vital, therefore, “to match patient to therapy – not to waste expensive treatment on non-responders. Diagnostics has to follow – you have to have diagnostics that can tell you which of the 50 types of lung cancer you have.”

2)     Shifting of care settings

Mr Dineen talks of a new range of diagnostic equipment and tests which will be increasingly employed in “clinics, primary care offices and ultimately the home.” He points out devices such as CAT scans or ultrasounds have “typically” been designed for hospitals, but are now “finding their way outside to all these different care settings”. Key to this is the ability to use developing information technology to connect them to doctors remotely monitoring a patient’s condition.

However, the biggest factor is the collapsing price of diagnostic technology. He claims this should help reduce the burden placed on traditional diagnostics by the “older, sicker, fatter” global population. The greater use of low cost technology in primary care should also, he hopes, lower the incidence of people presenting with late stage disease.

3)     Digitization

He defines digitization as: “the ability to capture information digitally, to move it around, to accumulate it, (for example) pulling together care records from primary and secondary care; to make retrospective decisions in terms of performance, infection rates by floor, by hospital; or to provide clinical real time decision support to a physician.” In short, there is “a tremendous opportunity for IT to industrialize the delivery of healthcare.”

He acknowledges the NHS is “fairly advanced” in the first stage of digitization – i.e. getting rid of paper records. However, he now believes it is time for it (and much of the rest of global healthcare) to embrace perhaps GE’s most famous management method, six sigma.

Mr Dineen states bluntly: “Healthcare is suffering from unbelievable variance, variance that would never be tolerated in an industrial setting. Any good industrialist knows that variance is the single largest driver of cost and quality problems (and) you can’t get the variance unless you have data and you can’t get at the data unless you digitize. He even talks of using digital models to analyse decisions “at a procedural level”, for example, “when is it the right time to wean someone from a ventilator. Are we doing that well?”

“Physicians demonstrate unconscious variance”, says Mr Dineen, “many of them are running to a different rule set, their own rule set. If we can help them understand how far they are from the norm – compared to standard clinician practice and more importantly their peers – they will self-correct.”