CEO SUMMARY: Not in recent memory has a laboratory information system (LIS) product been pulled from the market. That is why the announcement by GE Healthcare that it would no longer service or support its Centricity Ultra Laboratory product after July 23, 2013, has caused a stir within the healthcare informatics industry. In the United States, Centricity Ultra LIS laboratory customers are now hustling to select a replacement LIS product and have it installed and operational within the next 36 months.
IT IS A RARE EVENT when an established laboratory information system (LIS) product exits the marketplace. Yet that is what will soon happen to the LIS sold by General Electric Healthcare under the name “Centricity Ultra Laboratory.”
This summer, GE Healthcare sent written notices to its LIS customers announcing that, as of July 23, 2013, it would cease total support for Centricity Ultra Laboratory. Clinical laboratories around the world currently using this LIS must scramble to replace—in just 36 months—their Centricity Ultra Laboratory LIS with another LIS product.
GE Healthcare has not publicly discussed its reasons for discontinuing sales and support of its Centricity Ultra Laboratory LIS. As of press time, GE Healthcare had not responded to THE DARK REPORT’S requests to interview Marcel Huel, General Manager, Centricity Pharmacy and Laboratory Information Systems.
GE Healthcare’s Centricity Ultra Laboratory was originally developed by Triple G Systems Group of Toronto, Ontario, under the leadership of CEO F. Lee Green. GE Healthcare paid $54.8 million to acquire Triple G in August 2003. Triple G sold its LIS as “Ultra.” (See TDR, July 7, 2010.)
In the United States, it is believed that less than 20 customers, representing 100 hospital and other sites, will be affected by GE Healthcare’s LIS product termination notice. However, for those labs, it will be a significant challenge to purchase a replacement LIS and have it fully implemented by the summer of 2013.
Implementing a New LIS
“The need to transition to a new LIS in only 36 months will be a disruptive event for these Centricity Ultra Laboratory customers,” observed Larry Wimberly, who is Managing Director of Wimberly Consulting Services, LLC, in Houston, Texas. Wimberly provides consulting services in LIS and informatics to laboratories and other organizations. He is also a former employee of both GE Healthcare and Triple G.
“Many of the Centricity Ultra Laboratory customers are sizeable laboratory organizations,” explained Wimberly. “Examples are Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx [with 1,188 beds], Vanderbilt University Medical Center [833 beds] in Nashville, and Grady Health System [953 beds] in Atlanta.
“These are all quite large laboratory organizations and they perform laboratory testing across multiple hospitals and clinics,” he stated. “It will be a tight squeeze for labs of this size to conduct a procurement process for a new LIS and have it fully installed and operational in just 36 months.”
GE Bought Triple-G
Back in 2003, when GE Healthcare acquired Triple G Systems Group, knowledgeable observers believed that GE wanted to have a suite of health informatics products that would allow it to offer a single integrated informatics solution to hospitals and other healthcare providers.
“Seven years ago, when GE purchased this LIS, it was a competitive product,” stated Dennis Winsten, President of Dennis Winsten & Associates, Inc., a Tucson, Arizona-based healthcare systems consulting firm that specializes in clinical information systems. “At that time, GE Healthcare was buying a number of different systems. Although these products did not have the same architecture nor were well integrated, GE included them in the Centricity family.
Questions about Strategy
“It’s tough to understand the GE strategy,” Winsten said. “Why drop the Ultra LIS when laboratory test data is such a key component to all of clinical care?”
Wimberly made a similar point, noting that GE is terminating an LIS product that is used in some of the largest, most prestigious healthcare institutions in this country. “Clearly, GE sees value in the pathology side of the lab business,” he stated. “They are heavily invested in Omnyx, LLC, the digital pathology joint venture with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).
“It seems that GE Healthcare leaves a big hole in its health informatics product line-up by not having a competitive LIS product to sell,” added Wimberly. “It will be interesting to see what GE Healthcare might do in the future in regards to laboratory information systems.”
Allina Plans to Replace Ultra LIS with Epic LIS
NEEDING SEVERAL IMPORTANT ENHANCEMENTS to the capabilities of its laboratory information (LIS), lab administrators at Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, Minnesota, began to look at other options besides the GE Healthcare Centricity Ultra Laboratory LIS it was using.
“We wanted to add functionality to support bedside bar coding for patient identification, along with improved connectivity features for our lab outreach clients,” stated Rick Panning, Vice President, Laboratory Services, at Allina. “At that time, the managers at GE Health were upfront with us, stating that ‘these software enhancements were not in their future roadmap’.
“That was the moment when we began to suspect that GE was not going to support the Centricity Ultra LIS product going forward,” explained Panning. “The product termination letter in July simply confirmed those suspicions and we were already one year into planning for an LIS change.”
Panning says that Allina has selected Beaker, the Epic LIS product, to be its new LIS. “Our lab staff is excited about this change,” stated Panning. “The health system already uses the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) in all 10 hospitals and 70 clinics. So it will be a big advantage for our LIS to be more tightly integrated with the EMR, since the two systems constantly talk to each other.”