Intel, GE Join Hands in Telehealth, Assistive Technology

Intel and GE formalized its collaboration in health care with a 50/50 partnership to tackle chronic diseases and implement telehealth initiatives. As part of the agreement, the two companies plan to tackle exploding health care costs that are affecting an increasingly aging population by allowing people to get care at home.

Intel and GE Healthcare announced on Aug. 2 a 50/50 partnership in health care to build on an existing relationship that focuses on telehealth and independent living for the aging population as well as chronic diseases.

The two companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but the new company will be operational by the end of 2010.

The joint venture comes as more and more companies are developing telehealth technologies to allow people that are aging or suffering from chronic conditions to remain at home and still receive care.

"New models of care delivery are required to address some of the largest issues facing society today, including our aging population, increasing health care costs and a large number of people living with chronic conditions," said Paul Otellini, Intel's president and CEO, in a statement. "We must rethink models of care that go beyond hospital and clinic visits, to home and community-based care models that allow for prevention, early detection, behavior change and social support. The creation of this new company is aimed at accelerating just that."

According to GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, keeping health care costs down and ensuring that the increasingly aging population gets the care it needs is a major global challenge. "We think this joint venture will offer great potential to address these challenges by improving the quality of life for millions while lowering health care costs through new technology," Immelt said in a statement.

The as-yet-unnamed new joint venture company will be based in the Sacramento Calif. area. Louis Burns, the current vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Health Group, will serve as CEO, and Omar Ishrak, senior vice president of GE and president and CEO, GE Healthcare Systems, will be chairman.

Intel has also been active in the area of telehealth. In a recent joint study with Aetna, its telehealth service called Intel Health Guide has been proven to help patients suffering from chronic heart failure (CHF).

"This new company is the next step forward in a health care partnership that combines the complementary expertise and capabilities of GE and Intel to accelerate the development of innovative home health technology," Immelt said.

Gartner analyst Wes Rishel says that for technologies focused on telehealth and independent living to work, the caregiver must remain involved.

"It's generally not enough to put a device in someone's home," Rishel told eWEEK. "It needs to be connected to a caregiver who's assisting and monitoring the data and deciding what to do."

Although Rishel noted that setting up the health care side of the telehealth connection may take a few years, GE is well equipped to handle the connection between the technology and bigger health care systems and providers. "GE is very strongly connected to caregivers with its marketing of instruments used in practices and hospitals," he said.

GE also has its Centricity platform, which helps providers manage electronic medical records and run their practice digitally. On July 20, GE made available version 6.9 of Centricity Enterprise, which supports the government-mandated meaningful use requirements for electronic records, and on June 15, the company introduced a cloud version of Centricity.

According to Rishel, monitoring patients from the comfort of their home and on a more frequent basis could save the country a lot of money in health care spending, he said. "Most of our country's health care dollars are spent in the last few years of a person's life, and a bigger share of that is spent on people with very progressive diseases like diabetes and congestive heart failure," he explained. "There's a limit on the value of care that patients get. If you get measurements from your home more frequently, you can adjust your medications and you can work with them on following the protocols."

Rishel sees a lot of growth potential for the new health care venture, but rollout will be slow, he noted. "It's an important market, but like every other market it doesn't happen instantaneously. There are no iPads in health care."