GE makes big-data play with GE Health Cloud launch

2014 03 24 10 38 26 841 Cloud 200

GE Healthcare is taking advantage of this week's RSNA 2015 conference to launch GE Health Cloud, a new healthcare IT platform designed to enable medical facilities to perform data analytics and other functions more efficiently in the cloud.

GE Health Cloud is built around the company's Predix industrial Internet platform, along with a group of healthcare-specific apps developed by GE and other companies for specific tasks. Health Cloud is GE's first industry-specific implementation for the Predix platform, according to Jan De Witte, president and CEO of GE Healthcare IT.

Customizing the cloud for healthcare will make it easier for medical practitioners to enter the world of big data, or the analysis of large volumes of digital information to wring out workflow efficiencies and deliver better patient care.

At RSNA 2015 in Chicago, GE is highlighting four main areas for Health Cloud:

  • Advanced visualization: Health Cloud gives users cloud-based access to GE's Advantage Workstation (AW) software for 3D imaging and postprocessing. Practitioners can use AW tools on a software-as-a-service basis, rather than restricting 3D tools to sites that have AW workstations.
  • Virtual meetings: Health Cloud can be used to help institutions prepare for multidisciplinary team meetings that can connect staff across multiple locations. This can cut the amount of time required to prepare for meetings by 20%, reducing cost and enhancing productivity.
  • Case exchange: Health Cloud offers a more robust and scalable platform for exchanging cases between medical practitioners, De Witte said. Images can be shared between physicians regardless of their institutional affiliation, and CDs no longer have to be used for case exchange.
  • Image access portal: Health Cloud provides more efficient access to patient images, helping to create a longitudinal record for imaging and related patient data.

GE has already developed apps that support all four of the above functions, according to De Witte. The company has also opened up Health Cloud to third-party developers with a toolkit they can use, and GE is showing several third-party apps in its RSNA booth.

How does Health Cloud work? Essentially, GE sets up a data pipe between a site's PACS or modality scanners that enables it to send data into the platform. Use of Health Cloud is not restricted to GE customers, De Witte noted.

Once the data are in Health Cloud, users can access apps from an apps store for specific functions, such as data analysis or 3D image processing. Customers pay for the apps on a per-use basis.

Although GE is just now launching Health Cloud, the company believes it is a robust and stable platform, as Predix is already being used in other industries. The platform had to be adapted for healthcare to conform with HIPAA requirements.

GE is demonstrating working products for Health Cloud in its RSNA booth, such as the NeuroQuant brain analysis software from CorTechs Labs, with a full commercial launch of the platform scheduled for the first half of 2016. The vendor is currently scaling up cloud operation centers running Predix and will have the first beta sites up in the first quarter.

The company is also soliciting partners to develop third-party apps for Health Cloud.

"GE has an enormous equipment footprint across the world, and our installed base makes it attractive to developers," De Witte said. "It will be open to third-party developers to bring more smart brains to healthcare."

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