03 Jun CEO Wilson Defines GE's Health-IT Customer
Don Wilson, an 18-year GE veteran, was promoted to president of the General Electric Medical Systems Information Technologies unit in May to replace Gregory Lucier, who left to become CEO at Invitrogen. The division focuses on information technologies and most of GE Medical’s monitoring systems.
It’s a dream job for a corporate executive searching for a plum growth opportunity (GE Medical is about $9 billion and produced GE CEO and Chairman Jeffery R. Immelt, successor to the legendary Jack Welch). GEMSIT, which has been growing at a 20-percent annual clip, is projected to post $1.7 billion in sales this year and to grow to $3 billion, largely as a result of the yet-to-be-consummated acquisition of Finnish company Instrumentarium Corp.
Health-IT World Executive Editor John Dodge was among the first journalists to interview Mr. Wilson in his new post. This article was originally published in two parts on the Wisconsin Technology Network. Here it is in its entirety.
HITW: Why has healthcare been so resistant to implementing information technology?
Wilson: In healthcare, change is tough. The IT revolution of the nineties passed by healthcare. It’s an industry that is difficult and complex. Because of that complexity, a lot of people have not focused on bringing IT tools to the clinical setting where information has to move with the patient. What’s been missing is clinical connectivity. We see that as the sweet spot and opportunity.
HITW: Technology’s benefits sound so inviting, but many providers are still unwilling or unable to come up with the money for it. Can you offer examples to change their minds?
Wilson: Think about radiology. The radiologist can get the information faster [by going digital and filmless]. They’re not waiting for film. Images are ready to be reviewed in 30 seconds. Physicians get report completion in hours rather than days. Usually, the radiologist sees the patient so long after the exam is done that if there’s a mistake, it takes so long for [the patient] to get called back. (Wilson cites Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver as an example of where the rewards of filmless have been reaped.)
HITW: Who is your customer? The doctor? The IT executive?
Wilson: We touch many of them, but more and more our customer is the CIO. These decisions on the device and IT side are made at the CxO level. Most hospitals have some [sort of] CIO now.
HITW: Do you try to adapt doctors and nurses to the technology or give them technology that sidesteps disrupting the workflow they’re used to?
Wilson: You have to match the technology to the setting and understand the workflow to bring them tools that can make a difference in healthcare delivery. We don’t expect to change their workflow in an overly dramatic fashion. [A colleague of Wilson’s mentions that GE is working with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to design monitors that are easier to read and are touch-sensitive, recognizing that the nursing workforce is getting older as a whole.]
HITW: What’s a good example?
Wilson: If you have a 17-year-old daughter in some kind of an accident and she’s diabetic, [that information] had better show up in an emergency room before she’s given a drug.
HITW: You’ve said that the [healthcare IT] opportunity is wide open because penetration rates [in provider organizations] remain so low. But isn’t that somewhat misleading given that the hospitals flush with money for IT are spending while the larger middle tier has less money per site and is a tougher sell in general?
Wilson: The barometer has been a small acquisition called Millbrook. That product [Centricity Physician Office Practice Management formerly Millbrook Practice Manager] sells into entry-level physician [sites], and we’ve seen outstanding growth [with it]. It gives us a lot of hope for [broader] digitization in healthcare. We see great penetration at the high end, but are very encouraged about the [low end]. We’ve been growing at 20 percent a year for the past three to four years.
HITW: What’s the average deal size?
Wilson: In Practice management, they can be from $50,000 to $50 million.
HITW: It seems like GE Medical’s primary growth strategy is through acquisitions. What is the acquisition strategy?
Wilson: In terms of our acquisitions, [we want a] breadth of offering that can meet the needs of the healthcare enterprise. [Triple G Systems Group of Toronto] in the lab space is a good example. Now we have good presence in the operating room, lab, radiology and surgical settings, and with electronic medical records.
HITW: What products gaps do you have left to fill?
Wilson: We have not had a good presence in the operating room. So one [acquisition] that we feel very good about is the Instrumentarium [which has not closed yet]. Instrumentarium is going to be a key part of our ongoing strategy. We kind of like to think of the operating room as the cockpit. [Then], we’re getting pretty well where we want be. We still may do a big acquisition every year, but our game board is getting pretty much filled out.
HITW: What’s the most challenging part of the market?
Wilson: The most challenging part is other revenue generating ideas. For instance, if I’m a hospital CEO, do I buy a new MRI machine or open a new center?
HITW: What stamp to you hope to leave on GE Medial Systems IT? What will be your legacy?
Wilson: I think about a couple things. This is great growth business [with] great organic opportunities. This business is transitioning from a $500-million business. We’ll be $3 billion next year. Second, we’ve got to be more global. We are about two-thirds North America and one-third the rest of the world. The company [GE] is about 40 percent North America and 60 percent the rest of the world. [His goal is match the overall company’s domestic to international ratio.]
This column was written by John Dodge, executive editor Bio=IT World and can be reached at who can be reached at email@example.com. The story was reprinted with permission of Health IT World, a twice-weekly electronic publication that delivers authoritative information on business, technology and product developments related to healthcare management systems and information-based medicine — including clinical trials, patient diagnostics, treatment and care — for those executives and professionals in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, regulatory and vendor communities who are responsible for technology purchase decisions in their organizations. To subscribe visit www.health-itworld.com.
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