Microsoft's role in healthcare

Ten years ago, Tim Smokoff began his career with Microsoft. Since then, the healthcare arena has become a long term investment for the company and today he is Managing Director of the Microsoft Healthcare Group.

Tim Smokoff
Tim Smokoff

The healthcare section began by offering professional services in the USA. About six years ago Microsoft formed a healthcare industries team that provided sales marketing services and support. About 18 months ago Microsoft formed a health solutions group as a separate business group within the company, specifically to consider how the Microsoft platform offerings could become more pluggable in the healthcare sector. The group also has a consumer focus. An initial product, recently introduced, is Health bulb, which allows data storage and the use devices that download data such as weight and blood pressure etc. Another is Azyxxy, an EPR-like tool that combines and enables analysis of relevant data across existing systems. Today the group employees about 600 people. Guido Gebhardt interviewed Tim Smokoff about Microsoft’s current focus in the healthcare market
‘What is our focus in the healthcare sector? We have a stack,’ replied Tim Smokoff. ‘We engage in policy and standard bodies to drive privacy and security agenda. We also engage very closely with the various industry bodies in European as well as North American markets, to drive standards for interoperability and e-health services and information exchange. At last year’s HIMSS event in the US we came to market with a connected health platform, which is designed to deploy e-health services in the hospital, social service agency, insurance company, or even in a pharmaceutical environment. A collaborative model requires health plans to establish new and more customer-centric business processes.
We also do some work with National Health Service (NHS) around a common user interface, driving improvements in patient safety and the quality of delivery.
The healthcare group is also looking at what can go on top of the platforms. To strengthen Microsoft in the healthcare field, about 18 months ago we acquired Azyxxi – a product that was used in emergency departments across seven hospitals in Washington DC. It offers a comprehensive view – all previous visits, diagnosis and medications prescribed – of a an individual, as the patient arrives in an emergency department
Within the Washington Hospital system it had well over a thousand interfaces, which could be just a bit-stream of a part of the instrumentation or a PACS integration with a HL7 connection to clinical systems. Azyxxi is now a set of integration tools to quickly adapt it to new interfaces. It is a repository in which information is stored and it is a set of tools that allows the creation of ad hoc views around that information. Johns Hopkins Hospital, for example, was one of the initial customers in the US.
Typical use is in two camps: as a clinical decision support tool, where there is a best of breed environment with multiple systems, and in the other camp, for decision support in business analysis. It is built to carry out research after the facts.
Azyxxy is Microsoft’s first offering from the health solutions group, and we have more – we don’t only have platforms; we also offer solutions on top of that.

What drives the success of Microsoft’s healthcare group?
Today, we see a very fragmented market with very expensive solutions. We believe that, through our commodity approach with the tools we have, we can drive down the time to implement systems and the costs of those systems. Interoperability in large scale networks is a key to success. With Azyxxy, Microsoft has a powerful tool, which for the Microsoft Healthcare business is very important. This is one of the fastest growing markets and, within Microsoft, it is the fastest growing business. There is an opportunity in the market today to drive stronger integration and collaboration tools, which plays to our strength. Some of the investments we made around the service-oriented architectures, the health connection engine and the connected health platform directly address the integration challenge. So, one, healthcare is a big growth market; two, we see a very fragmented market with thousands of vendors with very expensive products. And Microsoft shows that some of the challenges in health can be solved directly with commodity software for less cost.


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