GE Healthcare and Roche Diagnostics: Partnership with a Purpose

By Tim Butler, Senior Director of Strategy & Marketing, Acute Care, GE Healthcare

Health care is transforming. We say that frequently in our field because it’s true. Health care is dynamic: It reflects human population changes as well as realities of micro- and macro-economies.

Nothing drove that truth home to me more than a recent conversation with the CEO of a U.S. university health system.

He along with other senior leaders and I were discussing the partnership between GE Healthcare and Roche Diagnostics and sharing our vision about how our companies are working together to help clinicians better detect sepsis.1 

Then he said, “This sounds good and you have a great project here, but we’re really not interested in one-off projects. We need a complete strategy moving forward. And valuable projects like this one must be placed in context, within that strategy.”

Single projects and niche solutions offered by “vendors” to hospitals are too often the norm. This CEO’s organization recently launched a multi-million-dollar “translational center for precision health.”  This means strategic focus and continuity are required in all that they do. The CEO needed assurances that he may not have received in the past – and had to ask to make sure he was getting them.

I acknowledged his pivot and was pleased to have the discussion. “You are clearly on a mission,” I observed. “Make no mistake: Our efforts to resolve the deteriorating patient are not only well-aligned to your vision, but they could very well be a pillar of your long-term strategy.” 

Our work with Roche is meant to help transform clinical decision-making at the bedside. We’re developing Artificial Intelligence both for the patient and for the caregiver to enable this.

This conversation with the CEO was important for several reasons. Could tackling sepsis really be seen as “just another project”? If so, then shame on us for not explaining it more accurately.

Solving sepsis is an extremely important, difficult journey.  Tragically, sepsis is one of the leading causes of death. For the enterprise, sepsis is also costly and negatively impacts quality, reimbursement and operating margin. In fact, it’s been documented that sepsis can cost institutions $18,000 per bed each year.2 The pressure on clinicians to catch and treat sepsis earlier is overwhelming. In that sense, what could be more strategic than solving sepsis?

As a 30-year veteran of healthcare, I’ve seen many new theories and isolated ideas that companies wished to implement. My continued perspective is that none can thrive without framework. That’s why the GE Healthcare and Roche “partnership with a purpose” theme is so important. It means we aim to offer a pivotal, determinant role as a partner in transforming healthcare. Without strategic framework, though, we would just be discussing big ideas and one-off projects – which generally fail. My job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The GE Healthcare and Roche strategy is a purposeful partnership in two ways:  AI for the patient and AI for the clinician. As-designed, our vision will venture deeply into the dark data of wave forms and cell morphology using machine learning algorithms to develop new patient insights.1 Imagine what search engine teams were thinking 15 years ago – opening up all that data to gather insights. That’s where we are today in healthcare.

We also aim to empower caregivers. Today, clinicians spend too much time typing or searching in the electronic medical record.  ED physicians make 4,000 mouse clicks per shift!3  Most caregivers agree this is valuable time that could be spent with patients. By using virtual collaboration, chatbots and patient-centric communication tools, we can give clinicians patient data in the way they ask for it and want to see it and enable them to treat patients more effectively as a team.

In these ways, our effort to join forces and take on sepsis is, in reality, much broader - a pillar of care transformation.  Our goal is to help clinicians practice medicine in the way they were called and trained, without added frustrations and distractions. By transforming the model of care delivery, we will enable truly heightened engagement with the deteriorating patient – indeed, with all patients. It’s a lofty goal, but one we’re convinced is attainable.

The U.S. university health system we spoke to that day isn’t the only organization demanding strategic thinking. Every healthcare institution needs it.  And that’s what partnership with a purpose means: enabling smart strategies1 (in this case, to defeat sepsis) that utilize big data and sound clinical tools to elevate patient care.

Anything else, as so thoughtfully pointed out by that CEO, is a one-off project.



1. The information presented here involves technologies and concepts in development that are not products and may never become products. None of these technologies or concepts are being offered for sale, and none of them are cleared or approved by the U.S. FDA or any other global regulator for commercial availability. This product cannot be placed on the market or put into service until it has been made to comply with CE marking.

2. Sepsis Fact Sheet, “Healthcare Cos and Utilization Project (HCUP) Statistical Briefs. Septicemia in US Hospitals.”  Sepsis Alliance



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