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Is Education the Best Medicine?

PULSE edu saudi arabiaeditIn the words of Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

Healthcare systems everywhere are being pressed to do more with less. More developed parts of the world are rising to the challenge by harnessing the power of big data, the Industrial Internet and new technology; other parts of the world barely have access to the basics.

A radical billion-dollar initiative is looking to bridge that gap. By the year 2020, GE Healthcare is planning to train over two million healthcare professionals around the world. Put another way, three times as many healthcare workers will be trained in the next five years than were trained in the last five.

Estimating that the average healthcare professional treats 30 patients per year (a number which can often be much higher), this program has the potential to impact more than 300 million patients by 2020.

Physicians, radiologists, technologists, midwives, biomedical engineers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals around the world will be equipped with the skills they need to improve the lives of everyone they treat.

“This is not a one-size fits all approach, far from it,” said GE Healthcare President & CEO, John Flannery.  “We will work with customers, governments and institutions, to develop new approaches for training and skills development on where it matters most.”

A big part of implementing such a wide-ranging programme comes from the ubiquity of virtual learning technology that simply wasn’t available even a few years ago. Using telepresence, mobile apps, and training videos to complement traditional teaching methods, more people can be reached than ever before.

Mario Lois, General Manager of Global Education Services at GE Healthcare, makes clear the reasons for the education drive. “Even if we develop best-in-class technologies, the users that operate those devices are at least as impactful, if not more, on the actual efficiency and patient outcomes as the product itself,” he said.

“Technology is evolving at such a fast pace that HCPs need much more frequent training and education, so they can truly remain optimally skilled and capable with the many devices that they need to use.”

The project has truly global scope, with many initiatives already underway in many different parts of the world including India, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, China, East Africa, USA, UK, Spain, and France so far.

Addressing a Need

The education initiative is addressing a key need: according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a shortage of around 2.4 million healthcare professionals worldwide, whereas investment in their education represents only 1.8% of total global expenditure on health.1

GE Foundation has worked alongside local Ministries of Health for more than a decade through its Developing Health Globally initiative. In parallel, to address some of the most critical health challenges in East Africa, GE recently announced a $14.7 million commitment for skills development and capacity building through GE Healthcare’s first-ever healthcare skills advancement center in Kenya and other GE Foundation training initiatives.


What’s more, in a survey of over 110 healthcare leaders in Africa and the Middle East, 77% said that the single most important need to improve healthcare in their country is training and education to improve skills and enhance capacity.1

The need for skilled professionals is particularly acute in the area of biomedical equipment engineering. The WHO estimates that around 50% of medical equipment in developing countries is not functioning, not used correctly, and as a result, is unmaintained. This places extra strain on local healthcare infrastructures.1

“Healthcare providers continue to experience increased patient volumes and decreased time for training. The training and skills of healthcare professionals handling medical equipment are at least as impactful, if not more, than the innovative technologies we make at GE Healthcare. Their work directly impacts efficiency and patient outcomes.  Healthcare providers will now be able to embrace new GE solutions, to train their staff, optimize equipment use, and ultimately improve patient care,” concluded Lois.


1 – GE Healthcare Education White Paper – March 2015

More Information

GE Healthcare: Improving Healthcare From Within

GE Healthcare to Invest in Enhanced Training for Over Two Million Health Professionals Globally by 2020

The Skill India Initiative

Brest cancer screening in Saudi Arabia

Developing Health Globally