Intel, GE Invest $250 Million in Health IT Partnership

Intel and General Electric are planning to spend $250 million over the next five years in a joint health care IT partnership, a key component of which will be the marketing and sale of the Intel Health Guide. Intel CEO Paul Otellini and GE CEO Jeff Immelt said they plan to focus on research and development in a number of areas ranging from fall prevention to medication compliance.

NEW YORK - Intel and General Electric will invest $250 million over the next five years in a joint partnership to develop health care IT technologies. The resulting products will be aimed at chronic disease management and assisting independent living for seniors.

GE's Healthcare division will sell and market the Intel Health Guide, a compact white box with a screen that allows users to check their recent health history, receive reminders to take medications and communicate via an integrated camera with their physician or other health care providers.

According to both companies, the market for telehealth and home health monitoring will likely more than double from $3 billion in 2009 to $7.7 billion by 2012. The number of Americans aged 65 and older will increase to 71.5 million people, or roughly 20 percent of the total population.

The Intel Digital Health Group has also been focused on creating digital networks that will allow health care providers to manage and build solutions for network-centric health issues, such as nurse workflow and disease paths.

Under the agreement, Intel and GE plan to pool their research and development efforts in the health care IT arena, and expand their development programs to include fall prevention, medication compliance, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and personal wellness monitoring.

"Most of the discourse [in health care] today is around integrating medical technology," Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel, said in a presentation. However, he warned that "this is not a business that's going to have instant returns," and will instead require years of investment.

Both Otelli and Jeff Immelt, chairman of the board and CEO of GE, see the development of health care IT as playing a major part in the lowering of overall health care costs, which threaten to put an increasing burden on the U.S. economy in coming years.

"The only way we're going to drive lower costs [for the healthcare industry]," Immelt added during the presentation, "is through technology."

However, Immelt doesn't want the agreement to be seen as a chance for both companies to profit from the Obama administration's increased spending on health care IT.

"I don't view this as capitalizing on the stimulus package," he said.

One area of intended research is creating new capabilities for GE's Quiet Care system, a passive monitoring system installed in seniors' homes that allows health care workers to detect emerging health issues or emergency situations.

Other major IT companies have recently been making moves into the health care IT sphere, including Google, which on March 31 announced a pilot program with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to let Medicare beneficiaries import Medicare claims data into their Google Health solution.
On March 23, Oracle announced that it had acquired Relsys International, a company that provides drug safety and risk-management solutions, in order to position itself further as a health care software applications provider. The acquisition will allow Oracle to make inroads into the growing IT fields of clinical development, post-market surveillance and patient care ops.