GE and Intel to the Old and Infirm: Stay Home!

GE Intel Health Care venture

GE and Intel want to keep sick people at home and out of the hospital. The two companies have announced a new health care venture to allow people with chronic diseases and other health troubles to use remote monitoring rather than visiting the doctor.

The joint venture will develop gadgets, like the Intel Health Guide, so patients can monitor their blood pressure and manage their health from home. "Controlling health care costs while bringing quality care to an increasingly aging population is one of the largest global challenges we face today," said GE Chairman of the Board and CEO Jeff Immelt in announcing the new venture.

Whether there's a market for futuristic at-home health care, however, is another story. The trouble is that there is no service model to back it up, says Jay Parkinson, a partner of New York-based health care design consultancy The Future Well. "Doctors get paid for office visits, not for monitoring each patient."

He adds: "An old person is a cash cow for doctors when they're in the hospital. You spend 80 percent of your lifetime health care costs in the last year or two of your life."

That's a problem GE and Intel will have to solve in order to meet their own optimistic projections: The business of monitoring patients remotely is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2009 to $7.7 billion in 2012 in Europe and North America, according to estimates put out by the new venture.

The company will combine assets from GE Healthcare's Home Health division and Intel's Digital Health Group, extending an alliance announced last year that targets three areas: chronic disease management, independent living and assistive technologies for people who have learning disabilities or visual impairments. Devices soon-to-be-aggressively-marketed include a mobile handheld gadget with large text for people with bad vision and an online interface for clinicians to remotely monitor home-based patients.

The venture is expected to begin operating in the greater Sacramento area by the end of the year, and be headed by Intel's Louis Burns. GE's Omar Ishrak will be chairman of the board.

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