Health IT

Interview with Vishal Wanchoo, president of GE Healthcare IT

David Williams talks with Vishal Wanchoo, president of GE Healthcare IT, who provided additional insight into the company’s Stimulus Simplicity program to finance implementation of GE’s electronic health records solution.

David E. Williams is the co-founder of MedPharma Partners who writes regularly on the Health Business Blog.

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GE’s Stimulus Simplicity program received extensive media coverage yesterday. The program is part of the broader $6 billion healthymagination initiative and has two main parts:

  • Interest-free loans to finance implementation of GE’s Centricity electronic health record for physician practices and hospitals. Loan repayment does not begin until stimulus money starts to flow around 2012
  • A warranty promising that Centricity will meet the government’s “meaningful use” definition, making practices eligible for stimulus money when it becomes available

I had the chance to speak by phone today with Vishal Wanchoo, president of GE Healthcare IT, and asked him some questions I didn’t see answered elsewhere. As a savvy, well-coached GE exec, he didn’t give away much, but still he was willing to clarify a few things:

  • The widely-quoted figure of $100 million is not set in set in stone. “It’s an initial amount we put out there that we think is appropriate,” Wanchoo said. “It’s quite possible that it could be bigger over time.”
  • There is no pre-set assumption about how much of the money will go to hospitals versus physician practices, or the number of loans. “We don’t know what the mix will be or how many loans will be made. We’re making it available to the broad market,” he said.
  • The loans will “defray all capital costs” until the stimulus money kicks in around 2011 or 2012. “The entire amount of the up-front cost of hardware, software, training and integration services,” will be covered, according to Wanchoo,

In a gentle way, I mentioned that although Centricity has a good installed base and many loyal users, it is not faring well in head-to-head competition against eClinicalWorks and NextGen. I asked him to comment on what was being done in that area. “Certainly a key part of the focus is on R&D” and product improvement. “We feel good about recent enhancements,” he said, although he wouldn’t cite any specifics.

I applaud GE for offering this program. When the stimulus package was announced, I was definitely concerned about the fact that no money would be paid out until 2011 or later, even though providers would really need to invest in 2009 to be ready. The GE loans address the cashflow timing challenge. The warranty also means providers don’t need to wait for the details of “meaningful use” certification to move forward.

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