GE launches new projects amid expected layoffs

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

GE Healthcare is announcing new ventures even as the company is facing job cuts.
The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press reported Thursday that layoffs at the company's information technology division might come as soon as this month, with more expected at the beginning of 2009.

GE Healthcare Information Technology, headquartered in Burlington, employs about 800 people of the 47,000 employed by GE Healthcare.

GE Healthcare executives did not disclose how many jobs would be affected.

Last month, GE Healthcare announced that the company and its partners, the Mayo Clinic Rochester, Intermountain Healthcare, Montefiore Medical Center and the University at San Francisco Medical Center, would commit more than $200 million and 400 engineers to develop and commercialize an open architecture to connect disparate healthcare IT systems.

Patient safety initiative

On Thursday, GE Healthcare announced a joint venture with MERS International (Medical Event Reporting System) to provide new technology to boost patient safety at hospitals.

The new solution was launched at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 20th Annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care in Nashville, Tenn.

MERS International's software, developed at the International Center for Health Outcomes and Innovation Research (InCHOIR) at Columbia University, helps hospital staff systematically record, investigate, analyze, classify and find the root causes of actual and near-miss events such as falls, medication errors and ventilator-associated pneumonias.

The system will be deployed by GE Healthcare specialists trained to use the data as part of Lean, Six Sigma and other methodologies to drive process and cultural changes that may help to prevent such events from taking place.

"GE's venture with MERS International puts an extremely powerful patient-safety tool in the hands of people trained to apply it for the greatest benefit," said Jeff Terry, general manager for clinical excellence with GE Healthcare. "It enables hospitals to move from monitoring and reporting adverse events to making process changes that actually help to prevent such events. It will help hospitals focus on patient safety more than ever before and drive more results. The MERS and GE combination will help hospital staffs hard-wire a real focus on improving patient safety."

Nuance integration

Also, Nuance Communications announced Thursday it had successfully integrated its SpeechMagic technology into the GE Healthcare Centricity Radiology Information System.

The development is said to be the first RIS integration with a Citrix-ready speech recognition for the European Middle East and Africa region.

According to Nuance, community hospitals, out-patient imaging centers and integrated delivery networks can now implement a digital radiology reporting workflow independent of their type of network architecture and client hardware.

"When making SpeechMagic Citrix-ready, we focused on high compression rates that ensure a minimum latency time between the recording of a dictation, its recognition on the central server and the return of the recognized text to the user's screen," said Marcel Wassink, vice president of SpeechMagic Solutions at Nuance.

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