Hungarian government funds major telecare/telehealth research: GE Healthcare to lead the $5.3m initiative

The Hungarian Government and GE Healthcare, part of the General Electric Company announced today a major new research programme to transform the care of older citizens. A consortium of private and public sector organisations has secured HUF 895 million (US $4.2 million, GBP £2.8 million) from the Hungarian government to research and develop new ways of monitoring the health of elderly citizens in their own homes. GE Healthcare will invest an additional HUF 238 million (US $1.1 million, GBP £0.75 million) in the programme.

The three year programme will “bring together the expertise of healthcare companies with leading academic institutions. The consortium will develop integrated systems and processes for the remote monitoring of the health of elderly citizens, particularly those who suffer from neurological diseases such as stroke, dementia and depression…”

The consortium is led by GE Healthcare and includes Hungarian healthcare industry members Mednet 2000 and Meditech, the University of Pannonia at Veszprem, the University of Szeged and the Budapest Tech Polytechnical Institution. The consortium will employ 71 researchers and associates, and will create 23 new jobs in Hungary.

Download the full press release here.

To put this into a wider context, the Commission of the European Communities’ November 2008 communication on ehealth strongly urged member states to investigate the potential benefits of, and accelerate the use of, home health monitoring – especially in the management of older people’s chronic diseases. Hungary has pressing reasons to do so. According to the US Census Bureau, the Hungarian population is in decline: in 2000 the total population was 10.1 million. In 2050 it is predicted to be 8.4 million. However, the proportion of citizens 65+ years is predicted to increase from 15% of the total population in 2000 to around 30% in 2050. Further, according to WHO and consortium members’ own data:

  • 600,000 of the 60+ years population live alone
  • There are 30,000 – 35,000 new stroke cases per year in Hungary
  • Approximately 100,000 people in Hungary have some form of dementia
  • Serious depression is a major problem for Hungary, with the incidence of depression highest in people over 60

In May this year, GE bought a substantial minority stake in telecare provider QuietCare.