Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 01, 2015

General Electric Brings Medical Imaging Storage and Diagnostic Tools to the Cloud

General Electric has recently announced a new cloud-based offering specifically for storing and processing medical images, which represents rapid maturation in the healthcare technology field. GE Health Cloud is set to roll out next year and includes a number of features which distinguish it from other efforts.

First and foremost, GE’s new service will provide easier storage and access to medical imaging data. By providing a cloud based repository for these images, while also meeting strict requirements for reliability and security, GE will reduce the demand on medical facilities' internal IT infrastructure and allow for easier sharing of patient records between health care professionals. GE intends to expand the offering beyond imaging data, so Health Cloud could even provide a model for a nationwide paperless medical records system.

Health Cloud will also provide access to on-demand data crunching, which is likely to attract the attention of hospital administrators. Local servers need to balance the speed of analysis against the cost of hardware. Patients and doctors would rather have real time diagnoses, but the necessary additional computational power is costly. By handling these tasks on the cloud, hospitals can leverage economies of scale to reduce costs and ultimately allow smaller facilities to offer advanced imaging services.

But GE’s cleverest innovation is its software development platform. Health Cloud represents a new center of mass for software development efforts in ways which are similar to phone and tablet app stores. It will reduce the barriers of innovation and allow for existing companies to reach a broader audience while making the market accessible for companies which otherwise couldn't afford to compete. The end result will be doctors having more and better information at their fingertips to aid in diagnosis and effectively treat patients which will increase accuracy, lower costs and ultimately lead to better health.

While General Electric may seem a little out of place as a leader in cloud services, there are a number of factors which give it advantages in this specific market. It manufactures a range of medical imaging devices. In addition, GE has an understanding of both the technology and the needs of health care providers. And GE brings their other proprietary technology to the industry, most notable the “Internet of machines.” This is a sub-set of the Internet of things that focuses on electronic devices used by companies for specific tasks. And because Health Cloud is an extension of larger trends at GE, they will be able to connect 500,000 deployed medical imaging devices to the service at launch.

As the barriers to introducing new medical testing devices and analysis services fall, they can be tied into other health data systems to provide consumers with more detailed information and to easily share data with their doctors. And as medical devices become less expensive and more connected, services will become more accessible. While history seems to suggest that health care costs will continue to soar out of control, it seems that well-planned advances in technology may soon be able to reverse this trend.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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