Pivot, pre-empt, prepare – Powering essential services during a pandemic

By Ramesh Singaram


OVER the past 12 months, I have – like many of you I’m sure – developed a much deeper appreciation for the things we took for granted before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and its spread around the world.

The phrase “you don’t know what you have until its gone” has never been more relevant and maintaining the essentials of daily life, such as reliable energy and access to healthcare, is the top priority for governments in these challenging times.

General Electric Company (GE) – with vast experience and expertise in energy and healthcare – is playing a part by working hard and closely with our power and healthcare customers around the world to enable “business as usual” operations across their respective hospitals, power plants, grids, and other essential facilities.

On the energy front (my sector of expertise) GE Power teams have risen to the challenge of providing reliable power to keep lights, and vital medical equipment running in hospitals around the world.

Uninterrupted energy also powers communications and internet services to keep everyone connected, especially families who may have loved ones in hospital, as well as people working from home and students learning online.

Adapting to business unusual times

Maintaining energy stability in unstable times, however, is testing and demanding because power plant operators and developers face new roadblocks (almost daily) from closed borders and grounded air travel, to disrupted supply chains, to restricted operations at job sites due to health precautions.

We’ve never faced what we are experiencing today and the ability to quickly pivot, pre-empt, and prepare for challenges has never been more vital. While it’s a strategy that has helped us to meet the needs of our energy and healthcare customers so far, we constantly look for new ways to rise to the challenges and improve our support. This has certainly been the case in Asia where GE Power and Healthcare teams have mobilized to plan, scale and deploy services swiftly.

Powering and improving essential services across Asia

Ramesh Singaram

To maximize output as well as ensure that power plant commissioning projects continued effectively and efficiently, GE’s power plant operators identified, prioritized, and postponed planned outages until later in the year.

In terms of support and manpower, GE Power teams across Asia were involved in 177 customer events – including 48 major outages – with more than 1,300 colleagues deployed to sites during the first half of 2020.

Their level of commitment and dedication was matched by the GE Asia Pacific Healthcare team. With hospitals reaching maximum capacity and facing shortages of equipment, GE teams delivered and installed new equipment in record time. They also helped set-up field hospitals rapidly – in 10 days in one case.

Virtual tools were also deployed to support essential healthcare workers and their services. For example, digitizing health checks allows hospitals to improve diagnosis, minimize human error, increase accuracy, and better manage patient flow.

A tool like GE’s portable mobile x-ray system plays a vital role – its built-in artificial intelligence (AI) capability alerts technicians when it detects pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and is used widely in leading hospitals across Vietnam today.

Offering a 95% likelihood of correct diagnosis, the device saves time while enhancing the safety of patients. AI also helps streamline processes in the radiology department to reduce examination time by nearly 16% – in crisis times, every efficiency gain makes a difference for front-line medical teams.

Accelerating the production and distribution of in-demand equipment, such as ventilators for critical COVID-19 patients was another key focus for the GE Healthcare team who added manufacturing lines and increased the number of shifts in factories to work around the clock.

Knowledge sharing in a pandemic

Bridging technology gaps quickly is another significant challenge in a global pandemic. Given flight restrictions, GE medical equipment experts were unable to travel to meet and train healthcare teams in several Southeast Asian countries.

Responding to this challenge, GE Healthcare rapidly pivoted, tweaking its innovations to identify new use-cases for augmented reality solutions such as SightCall, which was adapted to virtually train doctors and staff in remote locations.

SightCall is being used currently in Indonesia to keep mission-critical utilities and equipment in operation. This approach is vital for a nation like Indonesia, where healthcare workers and support staff are spread across 17,000 islands – some in very remote locations.

Of the many lessons learned over the last few months, adopting a united, multi-stakeholder approach remains one of the best ways to support overburdened healthcare workers and GE Healthcare has gone – and continues to go the extra mile – partnering with regional municipalities to support remote medical teams.

In Vietnam for instance, GE technology has been integrated into a local telemedicine center to assist rural doctors treating COVID-19 patients.

Looking ahead

While the development of vaccines raise hope, we remain focused on making a difference where we can whether that’s ramping-up the production of ventilators and patient monitors, or sharing our energy and healthcare expertise in person or virtually.

We’ll also keep rising to the challenges, taking inspiration from some of our sales managers who served as volunteer ambulance drivers or GE aviation plant employees who worked diligently to change from manufacturing aircraft parts to monitors.

Whatever lies ahead, pivot, pre-empt and preparing for uncertainties is ingrained now in our strategic DNA and we look forward to continuing to work with communities, agencies, suppliers, governments and more to drive positive outcomes that keep the world turning. – March 25, 2021


Ramesh Singaram is the president and CEO of GE Gas Power (Asia).

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.




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