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GE Initiative Seeks to Lower Healthcare Costs, Improve Quality on Global Scale

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, May 12, 2009

General Electric announced last week that it will spend $3 billion over the next six years on healthcare technology in an effort to lower healthcare costs and improve health quality around the globe.

Through the "Healthymagination" initiative, the company will also commit $2 billion in financing and $1 billion in related GE technology and content "to drive healthcare information technology and health in rural areas."

"With our technology, rural and urban areas and developing countries can have access to the best technology, affordably," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt in a statement.

GE's goal is to launch at least 100 medical technology products that "lower cost, increase access, and improve quality by 15%," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, at a conference announcing the initiative in Washington last week.

Oxford Analytica, an independent, international research and consultancy firm, is reviewing GE commitments in products and services innovations to determine if they meet these standards.

GE will be "accelerating health information technology, improving access, and really driving health into the home and into more preventative settings," Immelt said.

For example, GE representatives noted that more than two billion people do not have access to basic elements such as clean water or the ability to see a doctor or visit a health clinic. To address this need, GE has created maternal and cardiac care products for rural and developing markets:

GE pledged to expand its maternal infant care product offerings by 35% and will invest and scale its work with Grameen Bank to 10 countries by 2015. GE has previously partnered with the organization and has now agreed to the joint goal of creating a sustainable rural health model that reduces maternal and infant mortality by more than 20%.

And through its Developing Health Globally initiative, GE is expanding the number of public health clinics it supports in developing markets from 30 to 100, starting with six new clinics in Cambodia in 2009.

A major focus of the Healthymagination initiative is to improve availability of electronic medical records, and GE worked with the Mayo Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare to develop physician decision support through IT in the form of evidence based care. The system will be launched commercially in 2010.

In addition, GE Capital will provide $2 billion in financing to help health providers in rural and underserved areas get access to more innovation that improves health and reduces the cost of care. GE will focus financing to assist in the adoption of EMRs and health information exchanges. By accelerating EMR and HIE adoption, GE expects to help remove billions of dollars in cost from the health system while improving access to better and more affordable care.

The company is also investing in wellness and healthy worksite programs to reduce health costs for GE and its employees.

"We're going to get better at promoting employee health at the 600-plus GE locations around the world," said GE Vice Chairman John Rice in a statement. "By making the well-being of our employees a priority and giving employees the tools they need to make healthy choices, we're going to control our own costs."

GE also announced the formation of GE Health Advisory Board that will monitor the program, provide direction, and report on its progress. It includes some big names: former U.S. Senators Bill Frist and Tom Daschle are on the board, as is Devi Prasad Shetty, MD, chairman of the Bangalore, India-based cardiac care hospital Narayana Hrudalaya.

The board will "advise GE on its health efforts, investments and policy and will participate in regular public reporting on GE's performance," according to a release.

Through this Healthymagination initiative, GE hopes to improve its business model while at the same time doing its part to help global healthcare.

"Healthcare is an important industry that is challenged by rising costs, inequality of access and persistent quality issues," Immelt said in a statement. "Healthcare needs new solutions. We must innovate with smarter processes and technologies that help doctors and hospitals deliver better healthcare at lower costs."


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Ben Cole is an associate online editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at bcole@healthleadersmedia.com.

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