GE Healthcare is tapping into one of the world’s great remanufacturing opportunities, as its GoldSeal program helps hospitals strive towards obtaining good as new equipment at more affordable prices to provide life-saving services.
By Niels V Christiansen, US Editor
When Siva Balakrishnan scans the horizon from his position as Executive Product Manager at GE Healthcare and General Manager of its global GoldSeal remanufacturing operation, he sees an image of immense opportunity: A world with total annual spending of roughly seven trillion dollars on healthcare in two distinct and asymmetrical markets.
One is the developed nations, where 6 trillion dollars is spent on 1 billion people. The other is the emerging economies, where 1 trillion dollars is spent on 6 billion people.
Changing demographics, overall population growth, technological advances and rising healthcare demands and expectations everywhere promise growth as far as the eye can see. And it is no wonder that Balakrishnan and his team, as he told Reman World, “get up every morning excited about the opportunity out there in the global market.”
In the grand scheme of world-wide healthcare, GE Healthcare occupies an important niche in both the developed and emerging markets as a supplier of diagnostic imaging and ultrasound systems, cardio-vascular equipment and related services.
The company is a top supplier of state-of-the-art new computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, mobile scanners and monitoring equipment to the top tier of hospitals and health systems around the world. Its GoldSeal program supplies refurbished and remanufactured units to healthcare systems in the developed world and in the emerging economies where the customers are looking for life-saving technology at a lower cost.
In total, GE Healthcare’s share of world healthcare spending is about $19 billion, covering medical imaging, monitoring, biomanufacturing, and cell and gene therapy technologies.
BILLIONS OF SCANS
The company operates in more than 160 countries. About four million GE Healthcare units are installed and serviced around the world, enabling about 2 billion plus scans every year.
GE began its healthcare innovations with the development of X-Rays in the 1940’s. This innovation in diagnostic imaging set the company’s presence in healthcare in motion. GE continued to be a supplier of X-Ray equipment, and in 1964 the company began to expand its service in medical electronics.
Refurbishment and remanufacturing of used units started in 1997 and is now an increasingly important part of the business model.
“We’re constantly looking to see what is the best way we can extend the life-cycle of the machines and achieve circular economy,” explained Balakrishnan. “It is about taking a feature-rich and technology-rich product that has worked well in a specific developed market and move it to places where care is catching up.”
Typically, that means that when a healthcare system replaces a still fully functioning advanced machine, the used unit is selected for the GoldSeal program as a lease return product or a buyback. It is comprehensively refurbished and/or remanufactured, updated with new software as required by the process being followed, and recertified. For remanufacturing, stringent standards are set by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The work is done at GE Healthcare’s Repair Operations Center near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or Noblesville, Indiana, or a GE Healthcare OEM facility.
Because of technical definitions adopted by FDA, only significantly upgraded or changed units are classified as remanufactured products. Units certified to their original functionality, even with updated software and parts, are classified as refurbished. They all equal the original quality and performance and are guaranteed, installed, and serviced.
The buyers are hospitals and care centers in the developed countries looking at expanding their offerings to their customers, and, increasingly, in the emerging economies.
“We are a leader in India and other emerging markets,” said Balakrishnan. “More and more of our recertified units go to India, where Modicare, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new version of the United States’ Affordable Care Act (ACA), aims to expand healthcare for 500 million people of India’s lower income classes. The ASEAN nations and Africa are other top growth areas.”
Like other remanufacturers operating in the global marketplace, GoldSeal must address technological, logistical and regulatory requirements.
The biggest challenge, according to Balakrishnan, is matching returning machines at the right time with the right customer somewhere in the world.
Some countries have restrictions on importing remanufactured equipment, likely because of a misunderstanding of what remanufactured means, requiring constant attention and dialog between GE and local government officials.
And relatively rapid changes in technology is a limiting factor in deciding which products are candidates for remanufacturing.
Overall, however, Balakrisnan said that sales of GoldSeal products are seeing robust growth and becoming a more and more important part of GE Healthcare’s product portfolio.
In the end, he pointed out, all parties involved win:
The customers can save 20-30% when buying refurbished/remanufactured units that still give them top-technology and a high level of performance.
Environmental sustainability is also an increasingly important factor that plays a larger part in purchasing decisions by healthcare institutions.
GE gains from finding new ways to help customers.
And perhaps most importantly, patients benefit from care that might otherwise be unavailable.