Hospital IT

the system



Microsoft wants to put healthcare data in the Cloud to enable the consumer to take centre stage

It’s not well known that Microsoft is into healthcare, but they are and have been for several years – represented by Microsoft Health Solutions Group. Being able to leverage the vast systems knowledge of their parent company, they are in a powerful position to introduce new and innovative health information systems and the system they are looking to introduce is revolutionary. Middle East Health spoke to Dr Paul Nicolarakis, physician executive, Microsoft Health Solutions Group, Asia Pacific & Middle East, at the Arab Health exhibition in Dubai in January.

“We believe software innovation is a critical part of the solution to the Middle East region’s healthcare challenges,” Nicolarakis explained. “Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group is grounded in the belief that powerful software solutions in provider organisations, coupled with the power of the Internet to connect people, can help drive a re-engineering of healthcare that enables lower costs, higher quality care and ultimately better health outcomes.” He explained that with this new model, the individual takes centre stage and ultimately it is the individual who will be responsible for their health data and who they share it with.

“This is in line with the philosophy behind this transition, which aims to get people to take responsibility for their own health.”

He pointed out that Microsoft is good at building software that simplifies complex issues and drives inefficiencies out of the system. “We have a proven track record of this in many industries.

“Our technology streamlines workflows, making it easier to get critical information at the right time so that people can make informed decisions. With the right software solutions in place, we know that we can improve the quality of care and the quality of individual health and wellness in the Middle East and around the world.

“The idea is not to take existing medical software and do it better, but rather come to the table with a new view on what computers can do for healthcare, to improve it,” he said.

Nicolarakis emphasised that Microsoft’s focus has been on creating a ‘connected health’ platform – the ‘plumbing’ to allow information to move seamlessly between patients and their doctors, within physician care teams, and with the research community.

“We believe this kind of flexible ‘connected health’ software platform will invite innovation by allowing anyone to develop applications on top of it.”
Cloud computing

Simply, cloud computing is: Off-site – you access IT resources that are in a data centre that’s not your own. You don’t own the servers. Cloud computing is virtual, on demand, subscription style, shared, simple and Web-based.

The key characteristic of cloud computing is that the computing is “in the cloud” i.e. the processing (and the related data) is not in a specified, known or static place. This is in contrast to a model in which the processing takes place in one or more specific servers that are known.

Three parts to the system

Microsoft aims to help unlock health data so that people and providers can access the right information when they need it to make smart decisions. To do this, the company has three pieces that, working together, give a complete perspective – that 360-degree view – of the patient and access to their healthcare.

● The first part of this system is Amalga UIS (Unified Intelligence System) which has been developed to address healthcare information challenges within the enterprise. Amalga sits over all of the existing technology systems within a hospital, and lets them all be seen within the hospital in a manageable, cohesive way, no matter if it’s the view of a single patient, or the trends across a state-wide information exchange. Microsoft Amalga centralises digital information of all types into a single, continually updated repository that is available for analysis and data sharing.

● The second part of this system is HealthVault, which allows consumers to have control of their own health information in a way that enables them to act on it. They can access it when and where they want, and with various applications share what they choose with family members or medical professionals, to help them make informed decisions.

● The third part of the system is HealthVault Community Connect. This is a secure portal that enables a hospital to push specific information out to the patient after discharge so they don’t have to remember all of their instructions at a time of stress, or allows a patient to send information from their HealthVault account to their doctor, so they are able to see something like the trends in their blood pressure over time.

“These are novel ideas, and when used together support a new way of thinking about connected health management,” Nicolarakis explained.

He pointed out that HealthVault is a webbased platform that speaks to the consumer, while Amalga speaks to the enterprise. “In this way Microsoft is able to speak to the entire continuum from the individual consumer to the enterprise.”

He explained that an individual’s health data in stored in the Cloud (HealthVault). However, rather than being a global Cloud server, the HealthVault is country specific. “It is done this way to protect the sovereignty of health information for each country.” To date Microsoft has these systems in place in US, Canada, UK, Germany and China.

“In the Middle East we are in talks with a number of entities to look at how this system can benefit them,” he said.

HealthVault has range of devices associated with it, such as weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, pedometers and so on. These are connected to the Internet (wirelessly or wired) and the information is automatically sent to their HealthVault. The patient can then share this information with their doctor or with whomever they want, when they want.

Third-party applications

“On top of HealthVault we have partnered with third-party application developers who are creating a variety of applications that can use the data that consumers have in their HealthVault to get a range of insights into their own healthcare,” Nicolarakis explained.

In this way consumers can look at their own health, check trends and other insights, such as permutations on diet and exercise and thus take control of their own health.

For example, one of the key apps at the moment is the Mayo Clinic Health Manager. It looks at your health data, assesses it and, based on the Mayo Clinic recommendations, provides you with advice on diet and related healthcare.

“From a philosophical stand point, this system is being developed to support the move from traditional healthcare where healthcare revolves around the hospital, the healthcare provider and the doctor, to the citizenry. The citizen is placed at the centre of this system. Where they go, their information follows. They don’t need to repeat things for different doctors. The data is kept securely and enables the individual to share it as, when and with whom they like.”

Nicolarakis pointed out that the system can be adapted to suit a country’s specific data privacy regulations – dealing with the issue of who is legally allowed to access this data. “For example, Germany has some of the most stringent privacy regulations in the world and we were able to reflect these regulations in the software.”

HealthVault Community Connect

To take HealthVault to the community level Microsoft has developed HealthVault Community Connect, a portal solution that enables healthcare organisations to easily generate electronic visit summaries and share them with their patients and provider community. HealthVault Community Connect also simplifies pre-registration.

Nicolarakis pointed out that while HealthVault Community Connect helps you manage the dynamic nature of a connected health system and build loyalty with the referring provider community, it also helps you simplify care coordination and reduce administrative costs.

Microsoft, Philips collaborate

In February, Philips Electronics and Microsoft announced the companies will collaborate to streamline the workflow of radiologists as they seek to build and understand the complete clinical context of a patient. The collaboration builds upon the companies’ existing commitment to work together to connect technologies that will help yield faster delivery of meaningful health information, improve healthcare efficiency and productivity, and reduce development and infrastructure costs.

The companies will connect Microsoft Amalga, a data aggregation platform, with Philips iSite PACS to give radiologists the ability to view a complete set of a patient’s data stored across the health enterprise – such as admission, discharge and transfer (ADT) data, lab data, pathology reports and medications – alongside the patient’s images stored in the iSite PACS system. The ability to view digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) and non-DICOM data in one place will reduce the time radiologists currently spend probing separate, disconnected information systems to build a comprehensive view of patient history and allow them to focus more time on case review, analysis and diagnostics.

Under the agreement the companies will collaborate to configure, market and sell a connected solution that enables radiologists using the Philips iSite Radiology viewer to make a single click within iSite to access a patient’s clinical data aggregated, delivered, and displayed within Microsoft Amalga. 

ate of upload: 25th Apr 2011


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