Hartford HealthCare’s deal with GE Health focuses on AI, ensures access to latest medical equipment technologies

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Moore’s Law posits that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years with minimal rise in cost.

The principle, named after Gordon Moore, the former CEO of Intel, can be extrapolated to mean computer processing speeds become twice as fast every two years.

As technology becomes more powerful, those who don’t upgrade their systems fall behind on an exponential basis.

Jeff Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare (HHC), which was named one of America’s Most Innovative Companies for 2023 by Fortune and Statista Inc., wants to stay on the cutting-edge.

That’s why HHC and GE HealthCare, a medical technology company, have extended an existing partnership through 2030, enabling HHC to frequently upgrade its imaging devices to the latest technology.

Many of the new imaging systems include tested artificial intelligence and machine-learning software, which will enhance clinical expertise, according to HHC.

“We will continuously get upgrades, get new and first releases of new technology,” Flaks said in an interview with the Hartford Business Journal. “And because of the partnership and the commitment we made to GE, we actually save a small amount of money over the course of the seven years, and tremendously advance what our capabilities are, and our ability to actually reengineer health care.”

He declined to release the cost of the contract, but said a small part of it is being funded by $150 million in new debt financing HHC is in the process of securing.

GE Health is a publicly traded company based in Chicago that was formerly part of Boston-based General Electric, before it was spun off as an independent business in January 2023. Its former parent company, GE, was based in Fairfield — and still maintains a Connecticut presence — but it relocated its headquarters to Boston in 2016.

GE Health, which reported $19.5 billion in revenue in 2023, recently brought its staff to HHC’s downtown Hartford headquarters for a “show-and-tell” presentation of their latest equipment.

“The cycles of innovation are changing so quickly, that if you traditionally buy something, and then don’t buy something for five years, you’re state-of-the-art for a year or so, and then you get behind,” GE Health President and CEO Peter Arduini said in an interview with HBJ. “And this relationship gives all kinds of evergreen capability, so that there are new capabilities built in.”

The latest technology includes imaging equipment such as MRI, CT, PET/CT and X-rays that can produce images almost instantly, reducing the amount of time patients have to wait to get results, and also the amount of staff resources required to produce them.

That might mean instead of waiting a week for the results of an MRI, a doctor can make a diagnosis before the patient leaves the room.

A GE Health employee demonstrated a portable ultrasound machine. She held a device to her neck, and then a screen displayed the real-time palpitations of her heart.

Eventually, these devices could be commonly found in doctor offices.

“This allows us to export care into communities, as opposed to asking people to go to imaging centers,” Flaks said. “So, it’s really a game-changer.”

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED

Jeff Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare, shakes hands with GE HealthCare President and CEO Peter Arduini.

The new technology can also help doctors diagnose health problems more quickly and accurately, officials said.

“At some point over the next few years, when you go to see your primary care physician, instead of just using a stethoscope or tapping on your belly, they’ll be able to use a handheld ultrasound to see and analyze 100 times more than they could without it,” Arduini said.

Flaks said there are other benefits to patients, including expanded access to health care.

“By doing things faster, we can do much more, so we can have more access for more people, and we can do it more safely,” Flaks said.

The newest imaging equipment uses less radiation, he explained, which makes procedures safer.

As another example, an MRI of a knee that used to take an hour may now take five minutes, eliminating some patient stress and anxiety, Flaks said.

Phased approach

Over the course of the seven-year contract, GE Health will provide new technology as it becomes available. It will also have technicians on-site to service and maintain the machines.

“The impact is really significant. And it’s really incalculable, because it’s not just what we know today, but over the course of the seven years,” Flaks said. “There are things we probably can’t even fully appreciate or imagine that are going to happen as a result of the partnership.”

HHC began its partnership with GE Health in 2016. One of their first projects was building HHC’s care logistics center in Newington, which opened in 2017 and allows Hartford HealthCare to transfer patients who need higher levels of care from other hospitals and emergency departments.

The logistics center’s technology allows HHC to “manage all of our beds, colleagues, technology and resources to unlock the capacity within our health system to care for more people and eliminate dwell time for people who are waiting,” Flaks said.

“Transfers that could take days, now take minutes, and it was really extremely successful,” he explained.

Flaks said the initial agreement with GE Health also included standardizing equipment across HHC facilities and with industry partners. That means, when providers move to different facilities, they use the same equipment they’ve been trained on.

Under the new partnership, HHC said it will deploy GE Health’s new imaging technology through a phased approach.

The agreement also includes GE Health technologies that involve patient monitoring, anesthesia, maternal infant care and diagnostic cardiology technologies.

New software will help clinicians in the intensive care unit by providing AI-powered insights to analyze medical images and detect potential critical conditions in real-time, HHC said.

Also, HHC will get new deep learning image reconstruction technology that provides sharper images of the body.

HHC has about 41,000 employees with more than 500 medical facilities in 185 towns and cities in Connecticut. Flaks said HHC is the only healthcare system in the state that collaborates this extensively with GE Health.

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