Redesigning Technology for Global Health
This is an interesting story — GE redesigning an EKG machine (the last one of which they made in 1999) for a place like India. The have also been advertising a lot on TV – I was able to find the ad on YouTube which is pretty cool. Four things immediately struck me:
1) The accomplishment – Cost reduction from $10,000 to $1500 in under 2 years and weight from 15lbs to 3lbs!
2) The original machine took 3.5 years and $5.4 million to develop. Compared to drug development this is minuscule. Making devices is generally orders of magnitude cheaper, far quicker to develop and face far fewer regulatory hurdles (FDA). So why didn’t this happen sooner?
3) This is great for India, but what about for use in the US (especially for community clinics and in rural areas)?
4) Let’s not forget that the introduction of any “new” technology will have unintended social consequences which are sometimes horrendous, here is another example from GE and their ultrasound machine.
“GE Healthcare engineer Davy Hwang’s marching orders were straightforward. Take a 15-lb. electrocardiograph machine that cost $5.4 million and took three and a half years to develop. Squeeze the same technology into a portable device that weighs less than three pounds and can be held with one hand. Oh, and develop it in 18 months for just 60% of its wholesale cost. ‘He thought I was crazy’…” Crazy or not, Hwang pulled it off…The result: The new MAC 400, GE’s first portable ECG designed in India for the fast-growing local market.”
Full story at Business Week.