GE 'healthymagination' celebrates first birthday
by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | May 28, 2010
in health innovation
General Electric Co.'s $6 billion global health initiative, "healthymagination," turned one-year old this week, the company announced.
So far, the Fairfield, Conn.-based multinational has pumped $700 million in R&D and $250 million in an equity fund to nurture innovative health care technology start-ups.
Fruits of what the company claims is the largest consumer campaign in its 91-year history include a "budget" MRI machine for developing markets; an ambitious wellness program to lower internal health costs; and a plan carried out at a busy urban hospital in New York to make sustainable a nearly full occupancy rate.
Part of GE's "healthymagination" goal was to make high-tech medical equipment more accessible to developing countries. This led to the design of a relatively low-priced MRI scanner, the Brivo MR, a 1.5 Tesla machine which debuted earlier this year.
"The system has a 15 percent lower total cost of ownership when compared to performing equipment in the 1.5 T space," Jason Deeken, a marketing manager at GE, told DOTmed News.
Still, it's not exactly cheap, and goes for under a million dollars, Deeken said. But more savings would come from simplification: GE expanded the ability to remotely maintain the machine by electronically linking it to central servers to troubleshoot imaging problems, something critical for devices installed in hard-to-reach rural areas. And it's also easier to use than comparable systems, Deeken said. It features the "Ready Bar," which allows users to toggle scan resolution with only one, sliding control, which means operators need less training.
"Before this system, the only way to control that was to manipulate all 30 scan parameters," Deeken explained. "This single control makes that basic trade-off a lot easier."
China is one of the main markets for the product, but so far it has been most successful in India, Deeken said. Around 30 units have been ordered so far, he said, ahead of the first shipments later this summer.
INTERNAL HEALTH COSTS
Launched in October, GE's wellness plan, HealthAhead, aims to curb the ferocious growth of the company's employee health care costs: $3 billion in 2009 in the U.S. alone, according to the company. The program tries to encourage better living by subsidizing healthy meals at campus canteens, providing low-cost access to fitness centers and promoting smoking cessation.
So far, three of GE's 500 campuses, including one in Hyerdabad, India, and another in Cardiff, Wales, are fully certified for the program, with 10 more in the queue.