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The GE Brief — February 11, 2020

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February 11, 2020


“Mission control” might be a concept more commonly associated with voyages to the moon, but it’s got plenty of use, too, for those whose job it is to explore the human body — and to repair it. That’s the idea at the UK’s Bradford Royal Infirmary, which recently opened a “command center” where staffers monitor real-time data from the hospital to help optimize its operations. “It’s the same concept of mission control at NASA or air traffic control, but applied to hospitals,” said Gerald Dunstan, partner at GE Healthcare Partners, which designs, builds and activates the command centers. “Bradford is getting real-time insight on patient flow and can make better decisions over what actions need to be taken.”

The numbers add up: What kind of data? At any one time, it could be alerts from inbound ambulances or updates about the availability of rooms in the hematology ward. There was a time when such bits of information lived in isolation from one another, preventing the hospital from getting a comprehensive picture of how many beds were available and which patients needed them most. Not anymore. The command center is Britain’s first, but not GE Healthcare’s: Following the launch of such a facility in 2016, Maryland’s John Hopkins Hospital improved access for very sick patients by 78% over 18 months, reducing emergency department waiting by 35% at the same time — even while increasing inpatient occupancy by 8%.

Learn more here about how the command-center model makes hospitals smarter.



Today is National Inventors’ Day, and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the birthday of one Thomas Edison: Wizard of Menlo Park, General Electric co-founder, and proud son of Milan, Ohio, where Edison entered the world on Feb. 11, 1847. Edison didn’t just help invent the motion picture industry (see below) and the first practical light bulb (see above, literally — if you happen to be sitting in a room with a ceiling lamp). Over the course of his career, he racked up an eye-popping 1,093 U.S. patents, covering everything from film to sound to light to materials science. Little-known fact: Edison also supplied cement for the original Yankee Stadium and made “little monster” dolls.

Generally electrifying: Not all projects were winners. He sold his GE stock and invested the proceeds — more than $430 million in today’s money — into an iron ore business that went bust. “Well, it’s all gone, but we had a hell of good time spending it,” he reportedly quipped. But one thing about Edison’s technology is that it keeps coming back into vogue. His ore crushers went on to power a cement business, an electric pen found a new life as a tattoo needle, and high-voltage direct current power lines are helping bring more renewables online. Descendants of Edison’s inventions have also made their way into healthcare imaging, jet engines and the future of manufacturing.

Learn more here.



But we are not done with the prolific inventor. Taking home the little golden statuette at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, Renée Zellweger, Bong Joon-ho and others joined the hallowed ranks of Academy honorees past: Tom Hanks, Hattie McDaniel, Katharine Hepburn and … Edison himself! He was among the first to receive an honorary Academy membership, bestowed at the 3rd Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1930. Though Edison missed the ceremony, he received the award alongside George Eastman, the photography pioneer. Their achievement? Helping invent the movie industry itself.

Edison raises the curtain: In 1889, Edison filed a patent for the Kinetograph, a boxy early movie camera he dubbed “the dog house.” A movie’s not much good without the technology to watch it, though, so Edison also designed the Kinetoscope, which allowed people to view films through a peephole. His early forays into filmmaking were so promising that in 1893 Edison built a tarpaper-covered studio behind his lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, then later opened studios in Manhattan and the Bronx. In the coming years, Edison Studios would be responsible for a number of significant milestones, such as a film of President William McKinley’s 1901 inauguration; it also made short films including an adaptation of “Frankenstein.”

How forward-thinking was Edison? His studio produced an early example of one of the preeminent cultural artifacts of the internet age: the cat video. Learn more here.


1. Skin In The Game
Canadian researchers developed a hand-held 3D printer that can “print” skin cells directly onto the wounds of burn victims.

2. Using Their Noodles
At the University of Chicago, two scientists inspired by Chinese hand-pulled noodles created a skinlike synthetic tissue that can “stretch, heal and defend itself.”

3. Superconductor Superdiscovery
Taking advantage of the immense processing power of one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, researchers got a step closer to realizing a “holy grail” of physics: a superconductor that operates at or near room temperature and pressure.

Read more here about this week’s Coolest Things on Earth.



“We had been on this digital journey for years and not understanding our own data. Now it’s finally pulled together in a meaningful and actionable way.”

Dr. Brad Wilson, command center medical director at Bradford Royal Infirmary


Quote: GE Reports. Image credit: Getty Images. 

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