GE Healthcare to invest $500M, hire 5,000 software engineers
The transition has been in discussions for several years. The philosophy behind it was described in a discussion GE’s chief executive officer, Jeff Immelt, had with McKinsey & Company in October 2015.
Immelt said, “You think about a jet engine today or a locomotive or an MRI scanner. A new jet engine might have a hundred sensors on it. These sensors have the capability to take continuous data about the heat of an engine, fuel consumption, the wear of the blades, the environment it’s taking off in—a series of thing. And one flight between New York City and Chicago produces a terabyte of data. So, industrial companies are in the information business whether they want to be or not.”
According to David Hale, a GE Healthcare senior vice president, “In 2013, GE committed to investing $500 million in software by 2018.”
Then in 2015, the company created GE Digital. Immelt said at the time, “As GE transforms itself to become the world’s premier digital industrial company, this will provide GE’s customers with the best industrial solutions and the software needed to solve real-world problems.”
Last year in June, BioSpace reported that GE Healthcare opened a new 210,000 square-foot drug development facility in Massachusetts. The company said it will employ more than 500 people when the precision medicine facility is operating at full capacity in 2017. In February of this year, GE Healthcare announced it would relocate hundreds of jobs from its facility in Barrington, Ill., to downtown Chicago. John Flannery, chief executive officer of GE Healthcare, said in a statement, “Chicago offers an excellent platform for GE Healthcare to work side by side with some of the world’s most respected healthcare institutions, startups, associations and industry thought leaders.”
At the beginning of February, GE also announced it had laid off anywhere from “several dozen” to 160 researchers at its GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY. And in mid-January, it announced it was cutting 35 jobs in Schenectady, NY, and a total of 41 jobs in its clean energy business known as “Current, powered by GE.” And in November 2016, it laid off staff at its fuel cell startup in Saratoga County. Those cuts were part of a shift from GE Fuel Cells being a standalone company to being part of GE Global Research.
The new software engineers will be mostly developing an “app store” for Predix, GE’s cloud-based platform. They will also work to improve GE’s hospital IT infrastructures.
GE Healthcare currently employs about 5,000 software engineers, which makes up about 10 percent of all GE Healthcare staff.
“We’ll be hiring software engineers, data analysts, imaging analysts, to develop our own apps, but also to develop the platform and the capability of the platform to host hundreds of other applicants,” Flannery told Business Insider.
By 2020, GE plans to be one of the top 10 software companies, which will offer hundreds of apps for its GE Health Cloud.
Hale argues that GE Healthcare’s digital efforts can help improve healthcare’s cost, access and quality problems. “There is no greater opportunity to solve for those challenges than through digital—imaging solutions, value-based care analytics, cloud technology and deep learning. We aim to transform healthcare with digital, merging clinical science with minds and machines for higher quality and more efficient, more affordable care.”
This isn’t exactly new to GE. In February 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Obama Administration enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Among the many things the HITECH Act pushed for and incentivized was increased use of electronic medical records and digital health applications by physicians and healthcare providers.