Mike Harsh, GE Healthcare’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
“Seniors play a huge role in the social fabric and economy of our country. Ensuring a long and healthy retirement is in the country’s social and economic interest, and is not just a question of ‘how will the healthcare system cope?’,” Mike says
The US Senate Special Committee on Aging has for the last 50 years served as a focus in the Senate for matters relating to older Americans. In a forum convened to celebrate the Committee’s golden jubilee on December 14, participants met to discuss “Aging in America: Future Challenges, Promise and Potential.”
GE Healthcare’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Mike Harsh was among those speaking. He focused on the contribution made to the quality of life of seniors the world over by the US’s long history in health technology innovation, and the changes needed to enable the US to address the increasingly complex needs of its aging population.
“The technology that today helps doctors diagnose aging-related conditions faster and earlier has come a long way since it first was invented more than 100 years ago,” Mike says. “And now, progress in IT, imaging and biology mean that we are moving from being able to see-and-treat disease, to being able to predict, mitigate and prevent disease. Technological innovation will play a key role in securing best possible health for older Americans.”
The forum comprised a panel of experts that highlighted the future challenges and opportunities related to the US’s rapidly aging populations, ranging from societal issues related to aging to housing and financial planning. “Healthy active seniors are critical to the economic sustainability of our country – it’s important to recognize and focus on the opportunities presented by an ageing population, not just the challenges” Mike says. “Seniors play a huge role in the social fabric and economy of our country. Ensuring a long and healthy retirement is in the country’s social and economic interest, and is not just a question of ‘how will the healthcare system cope?’.”
Prevention, prediction, early diagnosis and home health
“We know prevention works,” Mike says. “Managing cardiovascular risk factors averted 14 million cardiovascular disease deaths between 1970 and 2000 in the United States.
“Moving our approach to health from disease treatment to prevention, prediction and early detection of disease, and where possible moving care for chronic conditions from the hospital or clinic to the home or community would save lives, lower costs and enable seniors to lead longer, healthier lives contributing to society and the economy,” Mike says.
Early management of chronic conditions that affect seniors, like rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease, dementia, obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, could lead to earlier interventions which would drive better outcomes, and longer, healthier more productive lives for seniors, Mike said as part of his submission. . This would also generate improvements in the health economy and extend people’s working lives.
Simpler, quicker, smarter regulation of healthcare technology
Mike also suggested to the committee that the pace and quality of technological innovation in health could be accelerated by supporting regulators with improved knowledge, training and consistency in approach.
“Effective regulation of medical devices is necessary to ensure patient safety,” Mike says. “Maintaining the delicate balance between upholding patient safety and fostering the development of innovative medical technology that can significantly improve the lives of countless American seniors, is critical, and there is always room for improvement”