Thomas Edison’s light bulb patent was 15 years old when Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays and proved their power by imaging the bones inside his wife’s hand. “I’ve seen my death,” she reportedly said after seeing the picture.
But GE co-founder Elihu Thomson had longevity in mind. A year after Roentgen’s discovery, he modified Edison’s light bulb to emit X-rays and used it to build the first X-ray machine. It allowed doctors to diagnose bone fractures and locate “foreign objects in the body” and launched GE into the healthcare business.
Today, GE Healthcare makes everything from advanced imaging machines to super-resolution microscopes and software that can be used to process, analyse and probe for insights terabytes of data produced by the machines. The business generated $17.6 billion in revenues in 2015.
Some of the technology has been on display at the 101th annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) in Chicago last December. The RSNA is the radiological industry’s “Grand Slam” gathering and trade show that was expected to draw 60,000 visitors and exhibitors this year. GE attended the inaugural meeting in 1914.
In 2015 at RSNA, GE announced the first GE Health Cloud that will initially gather data from 500,000 GE imaging machines, allow doctors to collaborate online, and let independent software vendors to develop apps in the new cloud ecosystem. The GE machines that will supply the data draw on decades of research and commercial development starting with Thomson’s fluoroscope, the world’s first commercially available X-ray machine.