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GE targets cardiologists with new marketing organization


GE Medical Systems has been on a billion-dollar spending spree over the last couple of years, acquiring companies and developing products directed primarily at cardiologists. Now, the company has established a dedicated sales and marketing organization

GE Medical Systems has been on a billion-dollar spending spree over the last couple of years, acquiring companies and developing products directed primarily at cardiologists. Now, the company has established a dedicated sales and marketing organization to address this new customer base.

Called GE Medical Systems Cardiology, the organization is staffed with about 190 professionals grounded in cardiology. Their goal is to market GE products more efficiently.

“We’ve been doing fragmented, individual, device-oriented selling and marketing,” said D. Brent Shafer, general manager of GEMS Cardiology. “We’re now very much focused on delivering a coordinated effort, where our approach is really solution-oriented sales and marketing for cardiology.”

GEMS today is a far cry from the radiology-centered company of just a few years ago. But company executives view the creation of GEMS Cardiology as a corporate evolution stimulated by the expansion of its product line, not as a move away from radiology.

The company sells many products other than imaging equipment, including hemodynamic and holter monitoring devices, electrophysiology systems, defibrillators, and cardiovascular information systems. These and other products have come from Prucka, Vingmed, Marquette, and OEC Medical—all companies purchased by GEMS over the last two-and-a-half years. The new cardiology organization will allow GE to sell products in a way cardiac specialists want to buy, Shafer said.

“What we’ve heard from customers is that we need to come to them in a way that integrates what we have to offer, so they don’t have to deal with five or six different individuals from GE,” he said.

The goal is to provide cardiology departments and groups at different institutions with single points of contact. Supporting these individuals will be teams of specialists, each knowledgeable about specific product types. Getting there, however, is still months away and will involve considerable staff cross training.

“It’s really bringing together a number of pieces of the business,” Shafer said. “Part of the function (of this organization) is to coordinate beyond the specific products to provide disease management.”

Three key pieces have their own distinct sales forces. Two come from imaging modalities, cardiovascular ultrasound and cardiac x-ray products. The third comes from GE Marquette, home for such cardiac capabilities as hemodynamic monitoring, electrophysiology, stress testing, and electrocardiography. Lesser, and still evolving, pieces are cardiovascular MRI, multislice CT (as it relates to coronary calcium scoring and other possible future uses in coronary angiography), and nuclear cardiology, including SPECT and PET.

GEMS Cardiology will serve as the sales channel for modalities such as CT and MRI, which are still making the transition to cardiac applications. Marketing support for those sales, Shafer said, will be provided by staff working within the conventional modality-based divisions of GEMS. One example is the manager of cardiovascular MR marketing, who serves within the MRI division but will work with sales people in GEMS Cardiology.

The acquisition of Marquette Medical marked the beginning of GE’s cardiology expansion, but GE Medical Systems has arguably long been a player in this arena as a result of its offerings in cardiac catheterization. Not surprisingly, a technological driver of the new organization is the GE Innova 2000, a digital cardiac cath system based on an amorphous silicon flat-panel detector.

Sales of this product, introduced in February 2000, are ahead of expectations, according to Shafer, who shepherded its development and commercialization while serving as the general manger of GE X-ray sales and marketing. Innova 2000, however, is not the only power source behind GEMS Cardiology. Other high-end products include the ViVid cardiovascular ultrasound scanners released this spring and the MacLab hemodynamic monitoring products from Marquette.

“We have leadership products in each major product grouping, which is very much the philosophy of GE,” he said. “So this is really about just bringing a clear, sharp focus to how we serve the customer as a means for driving growth.”

Formal launch of this organization was preceded by GE’s CardioIntelligence initiative, which sought to weave together the accumulating cardiological threads of the company. A critical element of the process has been integrating patient demographics and cardiac data with a cardiovascular information system. The CardioIntelligence initiative, which Shafer helped develop before taking the x-ray general manager position, is accelerating as cardiology products and services are packaged under a single disease management philosophy.

“We are trying to accommodate how cardiologists buy, to identify their specific needs, and to provide them with the solutions that are unique to their area,” Shafer said. “It is both a segment-oriented approach and a direct line of management coordination.”

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