Jun Kawakami (right), President and CEO, GE Healthcare Japan, gave a speech detailing GE Healthcare’s intentions in meeting the needs of this population.
GE Healthcare operations in Japan have recently been held up as a model of how to deliver the medical needs of a rapidly aging population.
With the U.S., Europe and emerging markets facing the same issues ahead, this model serves as a blueprint to export worldwide as GE taps into Japanese expertise to develop more senior-friendly designs.
An aging population and its implications on healthcare has become a topic of great importance both economically and socially as governments worldwide address the significant challenges to welfare, pension and health care systems in both developing and developed nations.
Nowhere is this more clearly felt than in the country of Japan, where the country has the world’s largest proportion of citizens over the age of 65.* The country, recorded the percentage of people 65 or older at 23 percent of the total population in 2013, the world’s highest elderly ratio.
GE Healthcare in Japan has taken steps to meet the demand of its country’s most emerging demographic.
Its Japanese operations have already achieved global Center of Excellence (CoE) status in a number of areas including LEAN Manufacturing, Liver Program development, and development of devices in the mid-range and performance segments.
In June of this year, GE Healthcare announced the expansion of one of its Japanese units to meet the demand of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) equipment within the region.
Previously operations had focused on developing midrange MRI products priced between 500 million yen and roughly 1 billion yen, along with parts for more advanced devices.
This new deal is set to broaden the unit’s development responsibilities to include all advanced models for use in clinical settings.
Speaking at the Diamond Inc.’s 100th founding anniversary seminar, Jun Kawakami, President and CEO, GE Healthcare Japan, delivered a speech detailing GE Healthcare’s intentions in meeting the needs of this population.
“Japan is becoming an aging society in advance of the rest of the world,” he said. “Many people call us an advanced-issues nation.
When a society ages, there are major changes that take place in the systems throughout the community.”
“The type of illnesses change as do the places where healthcare is received. And the healthcare business is going to have to change in many ways.”
Kawakami explained that in an aging society new needs emerge more in the chronic phases of illness than the acute phase – Alzheimer’s and liver disease for example.
Previously, there weren’t any technologies for observing disease progression. Kawakami pointed out that devices and tools were now available that can provide insight into the disease lifecycle.
GE Healthcare Japan now has approximately 100 scientists and technicians assigned to MRI development operations.
The deal is also expected to make use of regional resources with some duties for midrange MRI devices moving to China to free up development resources for higher-end models.
Kawakami also highlighted brain dysfunction as an example of the amyloid protein that accumulates over ten or fifteen years and is closely associated with Alzheimer’s.
PET scanners, equipment for synthesizing contrast agents, software that can image the lesions, disease and organ functions, and CT scanners have been developed with the latest in radiation dose control technology. These can be developed and provided as a total solution.
* – http://www.who.int/kobe_centre/mediacentre/forum/forum_whd-2012/en/index.html