Merely by being GE, GE commands attention. So does its CEO, Jeff Immelt, who I interviewed today in Washington after GE unveiled a new health care initiative, dubbed, inelegantly, Healthymagination. It’s a sister program to Ecomagination, which has done a lot for the image of GE since it was launched in 2005. I covered the announcement here for fortune.com.
Interviewing Immelt is no picnic. He’s a no-nonsense guy and he’s always on message. Time is limited. Today, I was accompanied by a CNN camera crew. That doesn’t help anyone to relax.
So I can’t say I gleaned any great insight from our 15-minute talk. What did come across was Immelt’s passion for GE and his belief that the company’s ability to tackle problems on a global scale is one of its key advantages. GE’s stock hasn’t done much since Immelt became CEO in 2001 but his self-confidence appears undiminished.
Healthymagination aims to do three things—lower health care costs, make care more broadly available and improve quality. That’s a tall order. In part, it will require a shift in thinking, away from making high-quality, expensive, cutting-edge products aimed at the U.S. market and towards making lower-cost products that are good enough to do the job in the global south, where more than 2 million people lack access to basic health care. Immelt told me that GE can make money serving the poor, citing, as an example, a product called the Lullaby Warmer that keeps infants warm after they are born. It can both make healthy margins for GE and lower infant mortality rates. GE is trying to serve the bottom of the pyramid, to borrow a phrase from business thinker C.K. Prahalad.
There’s lots, lots more, including video, at GE’s sleek, new Healthymagination website. Video of my interview of Immelt should be posted Friday at fortune.com. Here’s how my story begins:
GE and its chief executive, Jeff Immelt, announced Thursday a sweeping new healthcare initiative dubbed Healthymagination that the company says will help deliver better care to more people at lower cost.
With typical hoopla – a well-attended press conference with customers and health-care experts, a live webcast, full-page newspaper ads and even a Twitter feed – GE wrapped a big marketing campaign around a business, health care, that has been part of the company for more than a century, when it began making x-ray machines.
The health care initiative is modeled on GE’s Ecomagination project, which was launched in 2005 to drive the company’s energy, environment and clean water businesse.
Like EcoMagination with its “green-is-green” mantra, Healthymagination has a catch phrase of its own. “Health means wealth,” Immelt declared. GE, he said, thinks it can make money by providing health care more broadly and at lower cost, including some of the 2 billion people who do not have access to doctors or clinics.
You can read the rest here.
So what’s next for GE? Moneymagination, to fight global poverty? Don’t bet against it.