Google, Microsoft Take Health Care IT Pulse

By Chris Gonsalves Print this article Print

Though attacking from different angles, both Google and Microsoft are pushing deeper into health care IT, convinced the tepid sector is due to heat up.

Google took what little wrapping was left off the poorly kept secret of its Google Health. Blogged about for weeks before CEO Eric Schmidt officially unveiled it at a health care conference in February, Google Health will allow individuals to maintain an online repository of personal health records linked to hospital, doctor and pharmaceutical records, as well as general health information.

At the same conference, Microsoft rolled out new patient-monitoring and medical-records processing tools, and offered $3 million in development funds for solution providers that improve online health tools.

The announcements, both made during the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2008 Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., come during a period of weak financial performance in the industry. Cisco Systems and Modern Healthcare issued separate surveys at the event showing IT spending in the sector remains mostly flat.

But Microsoft officials say the complex health care industry—with its slim margins, tight budgets and lofty administrative costs—is ripe for the efficiencies technology can offer. Google and Microsoft stress that their technologies are aimed not only at the business of health care, but also at the real-world issues of illness and disease at the patient level.

Google Health uses the proprietary GData protocol, along with standards-based medical-record formats such as the Continuity of Care Record (CCR), to give users a way to access, store and communicate health information. Google said the service would remain free, with no advertising or data mining and with access limited to those expressly invited by the patient to view the records.

“The technology used here is extremely simple; that’s why this will move so quickly and why we’re so excited,” said Google’s Schmidt. “We’re going to find out in the coming weeks just how big a difference this makes in the lives of real patients. If doctors have ideas that can change the face of medicine, we want them to build their applications on top of this platform.”

Microsoft’s new Patient Safety Screening Tool (PSST) is a software-based solution designed to help health care organizations identify the adverse events that can occur during hospitalization. The first available PSST module keeps watch over hospital in-patients to guard against sepsis, the often deadly infection that strikes some 750,000 patients in the United States 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

“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.

Microsoft claims the tool can not only save lives, but also can significantly reduce the $16.7 billion U.S. hospitals spend each year battling sepsis.

This article was originally published on 2008-03-31
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