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‘How to make healthcare delivery sustainable’




GE introduces affordable devices to sustain practice in remote areas, reduce maternal, child deaths
Amid the global call for accessible, affordable, qualitative and sustainable healthcare delivery, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, General Electric (GE) Healthcare, Terri Bresenham, has said that the company has come up with innovative technologies that are not only affordable, but also sustainable.

Bresenham said about 5.8 billion people globally, predominately in the low-income countries and other emerging markets, lack access to basic healthcare as a result of unaffordability.

She said GE has developed technologies that could be applied by trained non-medical personnel in remote settings and in primary health care (PHC) centres to deliver adequate healthcare especially in efforts aimed at reducing maternal and child deaths.

She said: “Sustainability comes by making it affordable, building skill sets around it and being able to build a system that can deliver care on a reliable basis.

“In skills developments, the GE is a strong component in developing the skills that it takes to build and as well as operate and maintain the healthcare system.

“We have designed systems to be much relevant for these markets, less expensive to operate, less use of electricity, better at simple ways of operating it. So that healthcare can be sustainable in parts of the country we are serving.”

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new age of patient care, with expertise in diagnostic imaging, medical diagnostics, healthcare Information Technology (IT) and the life-sciences, GE Healthcare’s broad range of products and services enable healthcare providers to better diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, neurological diseases and other conditions earlier.

Bresenham drives regional leadership of GE Healthcare’s operations in India and South Asia, Africa and Southeast Asia, focusing on addressing customer needs across these regions and working with governments, clinicians, private operators and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to support their complete healthcare system development; from start-up phase through to established healthcare infrastructure build out.

She also revealed the training of high school girls and bio medical engineers that will help in disseminating the technology and encouraged women to embrace healthcare practice.

Bresenham added: “If you look at who consumes healthcare, its majority is women and children and children healthcare deliveries are largely carried out by the mothers. So when we think about any system, the end user of that system should be the people making decisions and policies.”

The GE boss said the response of the government is very progressive, in the way they think about partnering with other groups which can help bring about the change in the healthcare delivery system, and also they have been extremely aware of the ideas that need to be sustainable in this project in the appointed time.

Her words: “Recently the project we talked about, we signed a five year deal with the government. We also partner with other groups in the local market and other distributors and companies that are working in this sphere so as to able to make healthcare delivery sustainable.”

Terri is passionate about healthcare and global health issues and has devoted more than 25 years to the field. She started her career as a clinical chemist, joined GE as an “Edison Engineer” and progressed through engineering and product management roles in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Computed Tomography and Positron Emission Tomography. She also led GE’s United States (U.S.) Women’s Health business, and global businesses including GE Ultrasound and GE Molecular Imaging.

Prior to her current role, Terri served as President & CEO of GE Healthcare India, leading GE’s vision of “healthymagination” in India – an approach that aims to provide better healthcare for more people through solutions that bring costs down, increase access and improve the quality of healthcare.

Terri earned her master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas, and her bachelor’s in Medical Technology from the University of Tennessee. She is a board member of a number of healthcare organizations and is active in community-based health projects.

On why GE has been focusing on sustainable healthcare solutions and the opportunities this holds for Africa and the other emerging markets?

She explained: “The intentions are just around the name of sustainable health care solutions. This came as a fact that if we look across the world, there have been many projects in healthcare, built by government as well as donor agencies. If you come back a couple of years there has been a very little still working. When we took a step back, we looked to the idea. How do we build or design sustainable systems. Sustainability comes by making it affordable, building skill sets around it and being able to build a system that can deliver care on a reliable basis. We are working across Africa, Indian and Asia with the real focus of building systems that are designed to be sustainable.”

With the level of poverty ravaging the country and recent economic recession, how affordable can GE products be? She said: “When we started on this mission we said that the benchmark will be 40 per cent less expensive than the existing technologies.

The 40per cent is actually derived from what a patient can pay out of pocket and how do you expand with every reduction of cost, you open up the window for another group of population to seek access. How do you bring down the cost, how do you provide the right skills because even if I could bring the machine for free, if no one is there who is adequately trained to use it. It doesn’t matter, so we are trying to bring that component.

“We work with the donor communities that can help in structuring the financing that is much more palatable because at the end of the day healthcare is a higher intensity technology service and there is no getting round the fact that you need the technologies be it pharmaceuticals, therapy and diagnostics tools that we provide. We have to look at taking down the cost but training the right people that can use the technologies so that you get the value of that investment and bring in structures to be more palatable.”

What milestones have you set for the duration of your current role? Bresenham said: “Our goal is that when it comes to this partnership that we have with the government in the state of Kaduna, it is a concentration that we can reduce the maternal and infant mortality rate. The sustainable geographical that is set up by the WHO under the united nations is really important, all countries are trying to strive for those goals and one of those components is the maternal and infant mortality rate. We will measure our success in that program if we change the outcome and reduce the mortality rate for both mothers and children.”

Earlier this year you were in Abuja to introduce the Vscan as part of the “healthymagination mother and child initiative.” What was it all about? She explained: “We have deployed the first set of ultrasound technology and we have trained the first group of midwives and we are collecting the data to make sure that the diagnostics capability is being done properly and the feedback is extremely positive and even unintended benefits that we have seen so far is that mothers come in to have pre natal ultrasound which may not have happened for them in previous pregnancies is taken better care of because now it makes the pregnancy very real.”

You will be heading to Kaduna state for the outset of a major partnership focused on primary care. Why is this important, what inspired this collaboration and should Nigeria expect more of these sorts of initiatives from GE? She said: “It is very important because if you look at the maximum benefit to a population healthcare it starts with great public health services, clean water and sanitation and the second piece is around the primary care, strengthening ways you can probably have the best ways of changing the healthcare of population. So in primary care we are really focused on that because it is the foundational component.

“The secondary is also crucial because when you find a problem you need to address it. We want to start the basics because that is the greatest and best foundation to start with. We have been really keen to partner with other local environment, government as well as other aid and donor agencies in the country working. When we bring these groups together and we can end up with the better outcome. “We are committed in localising this capability, we don’t want to bring in people from the outside and make the system depend on them. We have been hiring and training people here and it is very important part of this. There is no doubt in our mind that Nigeria system can be run effectively by the Nigerian population.

One of the major drawbacks of the health sector in Nigeria is inaccurate and unaffordable diagnostics how is GE addressing this? Bresenham said: “The outcome measurable is the outcome documentable. It is not just what we feel or what someone tells us, the data show more sign in scientific way. It ties back to this idea, is it sustainable. Sustainability comes when it is repeatable. It achieves the outcome we are looking for, economically viable so when we break down the cost to acquire technology , the cost to operate technology then the cost to patients and health care systems.

“Ultimately if you make the right diagnosis and you make it earlier the cost will be lower. If you make the wrong diagnosis or you make it too late then the cost goes up. If we can do things at a very low cost and do them correctly and we are actually convinced it can be done and you can bring about the whole lot of change in health status of the whole citizens.”

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