I've noticed one name that seems to be popping up whenever I read about medical records and integration: Microsoft.
I find that surprising. After all, Microsoft is rumored to be losing ground in many areas and, while you'll usually find that Microsoft has its share in whatever market you look at, it's not exactly known as a leader in integration-although it did at least rank as a challenger in the recent Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Integration Tools. And yet, here it is, quickly staking a claim in the lucrative, growing health care market. It just goes to show that you can't ever underestimate the company's business savvy.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft popped up in a Health Data Management piece about a "lite" electronic health care records system for the National Cancer Institute. This is an expansion of the institute's existing Patient Outcomes Data Service (PODS), which is a Web-based system that lets doctors and hospitals share information about oncology patient demographics, diagnoses, treatments and outcomes, according to the article.
Microsoft, the National Cancer Institute and the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) worked together on a prototype. This is all about the integration, and the prototype uses two Microsoft health care products you'll see mentioned over and over again: Microsoft HealthVault personal health records software and Amalga Unified Intelligence System (UIS), which aggregates data from a variety of existing hospital systems and allows you to perform comparative analysis on that data. There's also Microsoft Amalga Life Sciences for researchers. This area seems to have really taken off since Microsoft's 2009 acquisition of Rosetta Biosoftware, which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck
Incidentally, Microsoft offers a free, Web-based version of HealthVault for storing individual health care records, if you're curious.
So, basically, the prototype integrated the PODS data with the Microsoft products online. Now, patients can contribute their own medical information-which is huge, considering that, right now, less than 5 percent of adult cancer patients presently participate in trials, according to Ken Buetow, director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology at the National Cancer Institute.
The new tool will also allow researchers and others to access this information, and hopefully get a better idea of how cancer treatments work-or don't-among various populations.
Around the same time, Microsoft and the University of Washington Medicine announced an expanded deal to collaborate on the Center for Biomedical Informatics' technology using Microsoft's Amalga UIS (Unified Intelligence System). Microsoft secured this contract after a two-year pilot program.
It sounds like another cool, forward-looking project. eWeek reports:
The collaboration between Microsoft and UW Medicine entails extracting data from text as part of natural language processing and using Amalga to further clinical and translational research. Translational research entails translating knowledge learned from basic sciences and applying it to clinical and community environments.
Other hospitals and medical organizations that have touted Microsoft's health care solutions recently in the trade press:
One key to Amalga's appeal seems to be that it gives medical staff access to data from other health care systems, according to this InformationWeek Healthcare article. It's not the only system that does so, but it's certainly a plus in the badly siloed medical world.
But Microsoft, in true Microsoft fashion, doesn't just focus on one type of solution. Rather, it has used the integration and data tools to gain a foothold and then expand that footprint. For instance, the eWeek article notes that last year, Microsoft unveiled plans to integrate Eclipsys' Sunrise Enterprise suite into Amalga. That move brought capabilities beyond the basic patient data, giving doctors integrated software for handling clinical and revenue issues.
Microsoft also made news when it acquired Sentillion, a Massachusetts-based health care software company, for the largest health care acquisition in Microsoft's history, according to The Motley Fool.
But perhaps we shouldn't discount another factor: Microsoft's lobbying. Most of the funding for these health care IT investments will ultimately come from federal incentives, so it doesn't hurt that Microsoft is using its powerful lobbying branch to push legislation on electronic health records, privacy and security provisions related to Amalga and HealthVault.
Whatever the reason, Microsoft's strategy seems to be working-it's making a name for itself in a sleeping giant of a market that's only now awakening to the power of business technology.