Microsoft Health Users Group Tech Forum 2008

26 Aug

Today’s keynote was given by Steve Aylward, General Manager, Health & Life Sciences for Microsoft Corp. He discussed how focused Microsoft is in the healthcare space and how they really see this as a long-term investment to which they are investing a large portion of their resources to this vertical. While he couldn’t disclose exactly how much he did say it was significant and historically once Microsoft puts its weight behind something they usually do it full force. I had no reason to believe this wasn’t true as their focus is clearly providing the framework by which healthcare transactions are completed. While Microsoft is prevalent in many industry verticals healthcare historically has not been a strong suit. The inpatient Amalga hospital information system they acquired and developed is being implemented overseas in countries where single solutions prove the most value. Healthcare companies in the U.S. are notorious for having fragmented and disparate islands of applications and data most of which are critical to the overall IT infrastructure and thus merit’s a different strategy that Amalga’s single solution product can’t easily satisfy. Therefore, Amalga will be marketed and sold as the Amalga Unified Intelligent System incorporating existing healthcare application and data stores into the mix as a different platform.

Below is a video of Microsoft’s “vision” for the future:

HealthVault also received a lot of attention during this forum. I sat in on the Health Payers track which outlined in great detail Microsoft’s take on providing PHR’s and becoming the central hub by which information can be passed between providers, payers, and patients. It is clear that Microsoft want’s to own this space by providing the infrastructure by which the data flows and allowing as much integration with existing and future applications as possible. You can access the framework through technology neutral API’s or web services. They have even gone so far as to offer a set of Java API’s opening the doors to other non-Microsoft solutions. It is certainly possible to offer such solutions but they are leaving the integration and development including data and vocabulary translations to system integrators and providers to offer end-users. There were several comments from valued partners that Microsoft brought this out a little early due to pressure from Google’s offering in the same space. I was skeptical of their framework offering however I walked away impressed with the thought that went into this and allowing a platform agnostic interface into the HealthVault cloud.

One thing is clear after this first day and that is Microsoft is looking to providers to utilize the tools they have provided within Visual Studio, and other server offerings such as BizCom, SharePoint, Office, Vista, Communication Server, etc… to create solutions in this space at least until they can develop vertical specific solutions such as Patient Server 2009. How will Microsoft succeed? I think the most successful case studies will be those that show integration between all applications and if Microsoft continues development in this area and makes it easy to implement core solutions using their technology as the underlying platform. Their vision is expansive and sounds great but the challenge remains in addressing the how people can implement and integrate Microsoft technologies into their healthcare practice.

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