A Pragmatic View of the GE Healthymagination Initiative

May 13, 2009

On 5/7/2009 GE announced that it has launched a $6 billion healthcare initiative called Healthymagination, $3 billion of which will be spent over the next 6 years for research and development of HIT and other tools that could "lower costs and boost quality."

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, he promised to diminish the influence of lobbyists in his administration and to provide a level of transperency not seen with previous administrations. I've found that neither of these two promises have yet to be delivered when it comes to his health information technology (HIT) initiatives.

On 5/7/2009 General Electric (GE) announced that it has launched a $6 billion healthcare initiative called Healthymagination, $3 billion of which will be spent over the next 6 years for research and development of HIT and other tools that could "lower costs and boost quality." GE officials pledged to increase the speed and productivity of HIT by "improving the use and capacity of certified electronic health record (c-EHR) systems and related technology."

The recent $787 billion economic stimulus bill included about $20 billion for HIT. Although GE CEO & Chairman Jeffrey R. Immelt stated that this government spending didn't spur Healthymagination, what gets me about this new project is that it positions GE in what will be essentially a no-bid government contract by which GE will be positioned to make billions of dollars if HITECH is successful at forcing doctors to buy expensive c-EHR systems.

GE plans to form a health advisory board that will include former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) who may act as the future link to the Obama administration on HIT issues. GE has long been a big contributor to the Democratic party, donating almost $1.2 million dollars to Democrats since 1999, including a $12,000.00 payment on 8/2008 for a speaking arrangement to former Senator Dashle (ref - www.campaignmoney.com/general_electric.asp).

GE also owns 80% of NBC Universal which includes 2 major news companies: CNBC, MSNBC among numerous other network TV and cable programs, transmitting both in the US and abroad (ref - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC_Universal). This will allow GE to advertise and promote its HIT operations worldwide. GE's Healthymagination program will draw on capabilities across its divisions, and spend up to $1 billion just to promote initiatives involving NBC Universal and NBC News, which will produce more than 5,000 televised reports annually on health and wellness (ref - http://newsfeedresearcher.com/data/articles_b19/health-care-healthcare.html).

GE already has a representative who receives grant support in President Obama's cabinet, Dr. Blumenthal, who was recently chosen to serve as national coordinator within the US Department of Health and Human Services. He joins other "enterprise" c-EHR company representatives including Mr. Tullman (Allscripts) and Nancy-Ann DeParle (Cerner).

Al Borges, MD

"HIT Realist"