The New Healthcare Team: GE & Microsoft

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Jeremy Bikman. You can read more about the GE and Microsoft Venture on EMR and EHR.


Guest Post: Jeremy Bikman is Chairman at KATALUS Advisors, a strategic consulting firm focused on the healthcare vertical. We help vendors grow, guide hospitals into the future, and advise private equity groups on their investments. Our clients are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. www.KATALUSadvisors.com

Healthcare is being held hostage and it doesn’t even know it.

It is held hostage by burdensome regulations, by archaic practices, and (oddly enough) by technology itself. In this age of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, an age where anybody with internet access can connect to somebody else on the other side of the globe and share personal information and other data with the click of a mouse, it is impossible that you could visit a hospital in the next town over and they would be able to procure your personal health information as easily or as quickly.

Healthcare, globally and locally, is utterly huge and mind-blowingly complex, and thus absolutely needs the very best innovation of everybody involved. Yet, healthcare technology companies almost universally deliver products which are built on closed-minded concepts. They lock down their platforms, creating real barriers to interoperability, patient data exchange, and actual innovation. This is the present reality within, and across, practically every hospital on earth. The recently announced joint venture between GE and Microsoft offers hope of an alternate reality, one where hospitals can bring together data streams from all over the enterprise, while utilizing new innovations and technology as they see fit, including different best-of-breed sources.

Giving Hospitals a New Choice
There are huge flaws in how technology is delivered in healthcare today, flaws which impact quality of care within a hospital and across the entire industry irrespective of country or region. While the rest of the tech world is moving towards open platforms and collaborative delivery models, healthcare seems to be stuck in the dark ages of single-source solutions which compel all-or-nothing investments to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. Too often those investments fail. But, the more important question is why must hospitals be forced into all-or-nothing decisions in the first place? Why must they choose between integration and functionality, between a single platform, however mediocre, and a best-of-breed mix? We believe those are questions of the antiquated past and that brave new innovation can deliver a new avenue for hospitals who refuse to be painted into a corner. Hospitals shouldn’t have to choose between apples and oranges. They want, and should be able to get, both.

The Basics of the Joint Venture
Selected product lines from both companies’ health groups will be part of the new company. These products were chosen for their specific focus on “empowering connected patient-centric care.”

GE is contributing an interoperable clinical data model and decision support system via Qualibria. GE’s eHealth is an HIE solution in use at a large number of sites in North America. Microsoft is bringing Amalga to the table, which is a data aggregation platform which facilitates interoperability and a host of other advanced capabilities. Vergence and expreSSO come through Microsoft’s acquisition of Sentillion and provide strong context management and single sign-on solutions. The strategy appears to be one of leveraging Microsoft’s platform technology (Amalga) to underpin GE’s clinical depth (Qualibria, eHealth). Additionally, this model will allow hospitals and vendors to integrate best-of-breed 3rd party products into the ecosystem as they see fit. This mix of products and capabilities will enable a true best-of-breed environment emerge while still having the core elements of integration as well. This ecosystem will be powered by the partnership’s own applications and those built by ISVs. No other major vendor offers this unique model and set of abilities, although Allscripts is the one traditional EMR vendor that is building a strategy of accepting of 3rd party solutions.

Tackling the Big Problems

No one is saying that this joint venture is guaranteed to be a resounding success. However, we applaud the visionary model and risks this new team is taking. It looks like they want to address all the big hairy obstacles that every provider organization, region, and nation is facing. Big data? Absolutely. Enterprise analytics and business intelligence? Yes. Clinical decision support? For sure. Population management? You bet. Nobody else in the industry has shown they can tackle these issues even though every hospital is clamoring for this type of model. So why not this joint venture between GE and Microsoft? We say good luck, and more power to them.

The principals of KATALUS Advisors have worked with hundreds of healthcare organizations, vendors, and other consulting firms across the globe. The opinions expressed here are our own and are not intended to promote any specific vendor and do not reflect those of any other organization or individual.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

11 Comments

  • “So we’re going to somehow hitch up our freight train to their freight train and create a mashup that will be an ever-efficient and agile solution to your evolving needs in this legendary time of change in healthcare.,” is what I read between those lines.

  • @John – good stuff. It certainly has the possibility to be an unwieldy combination. The hope is the NewCo sheds the excess and focuses on the strengths. A tall order to be sure.

    @Scott – your parenthetical tongue-in-cheek statement would definitely be a best-case scenario. I have no illusions to how difficult it will be for these two massive companies to produce a much more nimble NewCo. However, once the basic block-and-tackling of getting an EMR in place occurs there is a whole lot more that needs to be accomplished. If this NewCo can roll-out even half of what they have it will still be beyond anything that’s on the road maps of the current crop of EHR vendors.

    Faint hearts never won fair ladies and I admire the chutzpah that these guys are at least trying to do something different. Of course if this NewCo fails it could do some serious damage to both parents. In any event, it’s a fun time to be in healthcare.

  • @ Jeremy
    Hasn’t MS already failed? And Google too?
    Both had “open” health record initiatives the have either been shut down, or are slated for closure.

    Granted, those are from a different angle.

    What I glean from this is a bunch of weird names, from large companies that expect that hospitals will pay them a lot of $$ to fix this pain.

    Your reference to a lack of open platforms in the EHR world is very true…but do we really expect MS & GE to have an open platform?

    Centricity is not an example of open-ness. Granted, MS appears quite “open” compared to Apple.

    The only true “open” EHR platform I’m aware of is VistA.

  • John – I’m not sure what you mean by failed. Microsoft has consistently added new Sentillion clients and even several more more Amalga UIS clients on a global basis. They’ve done well, not great, but well.

    The further MSFT went into healthcare via vertical strategy the more their traditional partners became wary and less amiable towards being a partner. So it made sense for them to sell of their HIS business (that they first acquired from Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok) to Orion (brilliant firm IMO) and then to do this JV with GE. But of course they have a tall order to pull this off.

    Google backed out of their PHR business because they tried working directly with consumers/patients and didn’t do a good job engaging provider organizations as partners. They had a good bright team but no real vertical focus at all.

    Open platform – from a traditional high tech perspective? No. From a healthcare perspective? Yes, especially when comparing the Amalga UIS platform to any other major enterprise vendor’s platform (dbMotion’s is dang good too). Is their platform as open as VistA? No I don’t think so, at least not yet.

    Brilliant questions John. Many thanks.

  • By failed, I mean both Google and MS have or are closing their direct to consumer health record biz.

    Mainly, I believe, because people generally don’t care.

    Its like insurance, you don’t care about it…until you need it.
    The same goes for instant access to your medical records.

    (no offense intended in the following)
    I can’t help but chuckle at the items you mention:
    Vertical strategy
    Sentillion clients
    Amalga UIS
    Klingon ships (oh, maybe that wasn’t you)

    Hospital HIT folk drool over this.
    Real world users don’t give a squat…they want easy to use instant access.

    When I talk with hospital CIO/CTOs all I see is them building barriers.

    Hospitals want to own all docs, and if hospitals can own the data…

    What is really needed is a big ass data center with your data stored on it in a standard way.

    Then vendors can tap into that data, mangle it and present it in “their way”, while never altering the underlying data, so I can pull up my data on an “app” and view it…as can any doc that needs to.

    Then the issue comes down to trust…who do you trust to have all your PHI?

    The government?

    A hospital?

    This will vary.

  • Understood. MSFT is still pushing their HealthVault and are now trying to expand the scope. But it’ll be tough sledding since as you mentioned it’s like insurance and you don’t care about it until you need it. Maybe they need to tie it into wellness and tap into Nike GetFit and/or RunKeeper (my favorite for tracking my mtb excursions).

    No offense intended – I didn’t create any of those terms or acronyms.

    Agreed they are building barriers and the vendors are more than willing accomplices and in many respects they are actually leading the charge towards data isolation which really doesn’t help the patient much.

    Who would I trust with my PHI? Only 3 people – me, myself, and I. But I’m just dreaming the impossible dream…

  • What device do you use to track your mtb excursion with?

    A buddy just (yesterday) on a ride did a shoulder plant into a tree root and tore the rotator cuff.

    As I was mukking down my dinner I thought:
    What do people guard more closely: their PHI or their bank info?

    Which do people value greater?

  • I use my iPhone actually. In only the most remote areas does it fail on me.

    Shoulder plants are brutal. He’s going to be out for a few months. I blasted myself in a flood wash out and was out of commission for a month and still don’t have feeling in a grapefruit-sized section of my lower back. But if you want the thrill you have to risk the spill.

    Guard more closely? bank info hands down from what I’ve seen. I’ve learned a lot being on Diebold’s healthcare board. They deal with both all the time.

  • Great discussion. I’ll be interested to see how the two companies work together. A crazy mix of different cultures brought together on a massive scale. Has something like this ever worked in other industries?

  • At this scale? Not sure. There was HP-Compaq but that was an order of magnitude more massive. Intel-Micron’s JB called imFlash has gone pretty well and they have very different cultures. I’d have to think awhile about others…

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