Cynics might scoff at GE's unwieldy "-magination" suffix, but it seems to have some kind of hidden mojo. Last year, the company exceeded its emission-reduction targets and increased green product revenues by more than 20%—on target to meet its 2012 Ecomagination goals. Now GE's $17 billion health-care division is looking to tap some of that magic. "There doesn't have to be a trade-off where higher-quality health care means increased costs," says Mike Barber, GE's Healthymagination chief. "We believe that what is good for the public at large and what is good for the world is also good business." Six GE breakthroughs from the past year deliver on that promise:
The pocket-size Vscan ultrasound device lets primary-care doctors make diagnoses that once required a specialist. "Often, people get referred to a specialist because a doctor doesn't have the visuals to make the decision. This tool can lower the cost to the overall system," says Barber.
Developed for use in emerging countries and remote rural areas, the Mac 400 and 800 ultra-mobile ECG machines make sophisticated heart assessments available anywhere. "An ECG used to mean going to a hospital," Barber says, "and for large parts of India, China, and Africa, that doesn't work."
The Centricity Electronic Medical Record system puts a patient's complete medical history into a clear, secure, and easily accessible digital format proven to reduce errors. To tap stimulus money coming to doctors in 2011, GE Capital created a no-interest loan program called Stimulus Simplicity so that doctors can acquire the technology now.
Together with Intermountain Healthcare, the Mayo Clinic, and other institutions, GE created a digital database giving doctors anywhere access to the most up-to-date treatment options. Tied to electronic medical records, the system can compare histories of a vast number of patients for more consistent diagnoses and treatment.
GE and Intel announced a $250 million alliance in which GE will market and sell home-monitoring technologies, including the Intel Health Guide.
A $250 million cancer-research investment by GE and Eli Lilly yielded a significant development: the ability to "simultaneously map more than 25 proteins in tumors at the subcellular level." That could aid custom treatment decisions for all forms of cancer.