Forget Nimda: Microsoft Wants to Battle Real Infections Now

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-02-25

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.

The Patient Safety Screening Tool is part of the Microsoft Connected Health Framework Architecture and Design Blueprint--a vendor-agnostic attempt to address healthcare integration and solutions--which the company launched at last year's HIMSS show.

In an effort to promote similar innovation and interoperability, Microsoft this year is offering $3 million to developers and solution providers using Microsoft HealthVault to drive industry development of online health-improvement tools.

Microsoft is soliciting proposals in the following areas:

· Primary Prevention Applications – To help caregivers prevent or delay onset of disease by reinforcing healthy lifestyle choices and addressing risks such as hypertension and weight.

· Secondary Prevention Applications – To assist patients and caregivers in measuring things such as blood pressure, lipid profile components ( LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides), diet and nutrition, weight, smoking, and activity level in order to prevent or delay morbidity and acute care.

· Acute Care Applications – Targets acute care scenarios in order to track progress, improve communication and share data between healthcare silos in order to give caregivers better insight into a patient's health history.

· Juvenile Disease Management Applications – Focuses on age- appropriate tools to help children, parents and caregivers understand and manage these specialized conditions.

· Women's Health Management Applications - Creates online tools or services that help manage womens’ complex health issues within the context of lifestyle and family.

· Community and Social Health Applications – Develops applications for health in areas such as collaboration, communication and the use of social relationships to improve care.

According to Microsoft officials, proposals will be reviewed by a panel of healthcare industry leaders chosen by the Microsoft Health Solutions Group. Entrants will be evaluated on their potential to “significantly advance the state of health in one or more areas of focus and demonstrate the potential for expansion into a large-scale program.” The total fund pool is $3 million, with a maximum of $500,000 awarded for any individual proposal. The program is open to U.S. based accredited degree-granting colleges and universities as well non-profit research or health institutions. Private-sector organizations may partner with eligible non-profits to qualify for the grant. Proposals will be accepted from Feb. 25 through May 9, 2008. Notification of the grant winners will be made July 1, 2008.

The HealthVault software development kit and further guidance on how to develop HealthVault applications can be found at

In addition to the patient tools and the development grant funds, Microsoft announced a renewed partnership with SAP America through which the two venders will collaborate on healthcare administrative tools.

For the healthcare market, SAP and Microsoft will continue to fine tune Duet, the joint product from SAP and Microsoft that delivers SAP business processes and information within the more familiar the familiar Microsoft Office environment. “Health organizations stand to gain a great deal by streamlining processes for their managers with Duet, especially when it comes to people and suppliers,” officials said.

" SAP helps healthcare organizations integrate industry-specific administrative processes in order to drive efficiency," said David Corbett, vice president of the U.S. Healthcare Practice at SAP America, in a statement. "Duet is a great example of the groundbreaking co-innovation between SAP and Microsoft. Through this joint go-to-market initiative, Microsoft and SAP will enable providers to further streamline processes and drive down costs, all while improving the overall quality of care.”