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How Cloud Computing is Turning the Tide on Heart Attacks

When tech people talk about “the cloud,” it often comes across as an abstract computer concept. But a visit to a village in India shows how cloud computing can bring about enormous change in far-flung places, and quite literally save lives.

On Wednesday, at the Fortune Brainstorm Health summit in San Diego, cardiologist Charit Bhograj spoke to a medical counterpart in India who was in the course of treating a rural man with chest pains.

As the doctors explained, it was recently impossible to offer advanced heart treatment in poor villages: It cost too much to administer an Electrocardiogram (EKG) and, even if you could get an EKG, the local physician was not in a position to interpret it.

This situation has changed dramatically, however, with the advent of portable EKG devices, specialized software and cloud computing.

In the course of a 10-minute presentation, the audience watched as the physician in India took an EKG reading from the man with chest pains, and relayed the results to Bhograj in San Diego. Bhograj then assessed the results and typed his advice into a tool called Tricog, which the Indian doctor then downloaded via a smartphone app.

This arrangement, which relied on a EKG device supplied by GE Health, represents a striking advancement in technology. But it also has huge health implications.

“It will change the odds of a heart attack taking your life from 80% to an 80% chance you will survive,” said Bhograj, explaining how cloud-based medical services are transforming cardiac health in rural areas.

And according to Vikram Damodaran, the chief product officer of Sustainable Health Solutions at GE Healthcare, the transformation is only beginning. He explained that GE has made investments worth $300 million in the public health system in recent years, and that the sort of services appearing in rural India are also expanding to Southeast Asia and Africa.

All of this confirms an observation this morning by Fortune President Alan Murray—that there’s an incredible burst of innovation taking place in the health care industry right now.

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