GE is developing pioneering new technology in its healthcare division by keeping the principals of frugal innovation at its heart. The healthcare products include a portable ultrasound machine costing an astonishing $15,000, a fraction of the $350,000 machine that sells in this product range. And, a handheld Electrocardiogram (ECG) called the Mac 400, whose simplified design mean that it is sold for $800, that’s $1200 cheaper than its equivalent. These innovations, developed for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid have leapfrogged into hospitals in the west.
Frugal innovation will no doubt help to cut the cost of healthcare, making it more affordable for current and future generations. Furthermore, it makes resource efficiency fashionable, encouraging companies to use materials sparingly which will also benefit future generations.
It challenges our long held idea that the west will deliver all the health care solutions for developing countries. GE is learning from emerging economies that there are equivalent alternatives to high tech, over engineered and expensive products, and through collaboration and learning, companies in high and low income countries can shape the future of healthcare together.