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Forget Nimda: Microsoft Wants to Battle Real Infections Now

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-02-25 Print this article Print

Microsoft is taking a strong interest in thwarting viruses--not the ones in your e-mail, but the ones under your skin.

ORLANDO, Fla.In its continued push to provide targeted technology tools to the healthcare sector, Microsoft is rolling out new patient monitoring and medical-records processing tools and offering $3 million dollars in development funds for solution providers that improve online health tools.

Microsoft also inked a new joint marketing agreement with SAP America to deliver various combinations of the pair’s administration tools to healthcare providers in the U.S.

Microsoft’s announcements, including one tool aimed at specifically dreaded sepsis infections, were among the key events on the first full day of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2008 Conference & Exhibition here. HIMSS draws some 25,000 healthcare IT professionals annually to hear about developments in electronic health records, hospital administration, diagnostic, security, and compliance technologies.

Microsoft officials here are expressing the belief that the complex healthcare industry--with its slim margins, tight budgets and lofty administrative costs—is ripe for the efficiencies technology can offer. But even as healthcare executives perused the latest wares in Orlando, a new study shows IT spending in the industry will remain fairly flat.

According to Modern Healthcare's annual survey on key IT issues, released today, IT spending by hospitals and physicians is expected to rise only slightly in 2008 as healthcare providers hold out for federal financial assistance before adopting the latest technologies.

Some18 percent of the 145 healthcare executives polled said their healthcare organizations will spend between 2.6 percent and 3 percent  of their total operating budget on IT in 2008. That’s up just slightly over the 2.5 percent reported last year.

A whopping 58 percent said they felt adopting an electronic health record systems was a top priority, but the more than 86 percent of those respondents said the government should subsidize the cost of EHR systems at hospitals.

“The survey results support what we hear anecdotally from healthcare providers,” said Modern Healthcare Editor David Burda in announcing the survey results. “But if they're waiting for the federal government to act, they may be waiting a long time given the government's other federal budget priorities.”

The dismal forecast, however, hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of Microsoft and other vendors unveiling technology innovations here, many of which are aimed not only at the business of healthcare, but real-world issues of illness and disease as well.

For example, Microsoft’s new Patient Safety Screening Tool (PSST), is a software-based solution designed to help healthcare organizations identify the myriad adverse events that can occur during hospitalization. The first available PSST module keeps watch over hospital in-patient to guard against sepsis, the often deadly infection that strikes some 750,000 patients in the U.S. annually. The PSST for Sepsis tool is built on Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2005, Office SharePoint Server 2007,. NET Framework 3.5 and the Office 2007 version of InfoPath. It is currently being delivered by healthcare solution provider Accent on Integration.

“Reducing mortality due to severe sepsis requires an organized process that guarantees the early recognition of the infection, along with the uniform and consistent application of the best evidence-based practices,” said Chris Sullivan, industry solutions director for Microsoft’s Health and Life Sciences Group, in a statement. “The Patient Safety Screening Tool for Sepsis can help save lives by monitoring clinical data inputs and dispatching alerts and reminders based on predefined thresholds and pattern matching to facilitate early detection and intervention.”

Microsoft and AOI officials say the tool can not only save lives, but significantly reduce the $16.7 billion U.S. hospitals spend each year battling sepsis. Once established, PSST should also help drive demand as patients seek out hospitals with the advanced monitoring capabilities, officials said.

“Even with the years of specialized training physicians receive, it is challenging to see patterns in clinical data amid chaos," said Dr. John Barwise, assistant professor of anesthesiology and neurosurgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center which is providing clinical direction through AOI for the new PSST tool. “The early detection and treatment of sepsis requires a number of tests, observations and decisions to be made in a limited amount of time. Microsoft's Patient Safety Screening Tool is an essential tool in the fight against sepsis.

“While the initial focus with PSST is early detection of severe sepsis, the tool is flexible to allow for future modules such as MRSA, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and more," Barwise said.

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