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Innovation will Tackle the Most Pressing Global Health Challenges


President and CEO of GE Healthcare, John Dineen.

Leaders and key decision-makers and influencers of global health systems and policy, including heads of state, ministers, senior government officials, academics and thinkers, and business leaders such as GE Healthcare’s John Dineen, gathered in Qatar in December to discuss innovative solutions to the most pressing global health challenges.

The inaugural World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), which took place on 10 and 11 December in Doha, showcased a practical range of recent innovations from around the world including technological advances, new business models and design-based solutions.

Representing the healthcare technology industry, President and CEO of GE Healthcare, John Dineen, pointed to the changing healthcare environment globally that was dictating how the industry was investing in future innovation.

“Today we invest to improve quality, cost and access,” he stated. “We have recognized that with populations ageing, the demographics are driving demand up. Obesity rates are escalating, chronic diseases are increasing, and costs are spiraling.”

Dineen pointed to the 2008 economic crisis as the point at which governments and companies began to really feel the huge significance of these trends. He described the macroeconomics of current healthcare environment as ‘scary’ given the towering demand for and less money available for it. The company recognized, as governments did, that actions are needed to address unsustainable costs.

He also identified the complexity of chronic diseases that GE Healthcare is focusing on, such as neurology, cancer, and cardiology. He expressed the need for newer, more powerful technology to meet these challenges.
The third key area he pointed as impacting company strategy is the growth of new care settings, and the shift from large hospitals to the clinic, the home, and the field.

“These three big themes have changed the way we think and the way we invest,” he said. The company, he explained, is investing differently by making sure the innovations are clinically and economically relevant. This is similar to the aviation and energy industry. Innovations have to be engineered for quality and cost at the same time.

Dineen also identified the industrialization and digitization of healthcare, which he said was an opportunity to remove the variance out of healthcare. 

An example of the clinical and economic relevance theme that GE Healthcare is focused on is its approach to ultrasound technology. The idea is to miniaturize ultrasound’s platform using software and consumer electronics technology to produce an economically viable innovation such as the Vscan. Vscan has unique clinical applications whilst giving ultrasound capabilities to those located in settings such as rural midwife clinics that provide maternal care.

Dineen then focused on the opportunities to industrialize healthcare and work towards reaching the performance levels seen in other industries. He acknowledged that the healthcare industry is about 10-15 years behind industries like chemical and banking in terms of deploying IT to lower cost and improve service.

“You could also look at the transportation and aviation industry and how they use advanced scheduling to improve their asset utilization,” he said. “All these things are possible in the healthcare environment.” 

He concluded by reinforcing that healthcare sector needs to develop technologies that have both clinical and economic benefits. The developed markets are look to the sector to help them bring productivity to unsustainable healthcare systems. In the developing regions, they need affordable technologies that can make a difference in new care settings. 

“We can produce technologies that can do more with less, and to improve access around the world. It just requires that we think a little bit differently. “