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Microsoft Puts Patient Safety on Center Stage at HIMSS 2008


Q&A: As more than 24,000 healthcare-technology specialists gather for HIMSS 2008, Microsoft health experts discuss how new technology can help lower delivery costs, advance the quality of care and dramatically improve patient safety.

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 2008 – Healthcare-technology specialists have gathered in Orlando, Fla., for HIMSS 2008, this year’s installment of the Health Information Management and Systems Society’s annual IT conference. which draws major healthcare providers, health technology vendors, industry luminaries. Following the 2007 HIMSS keynote address by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft in the last year has made several big moves toward addressing its vision for the industry. PressPass spoke with Steve Shihadeh, general manager for Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group, and Steve Aylward, general manager for Microsoft’s U.S. Health and Life Sciences Group, about what Microsoft is doing to help improve health around the world.

PressPass: What are some of the common issues facing today’s health care system?

Aylward: It’s been written about over the last year and, of course, discussed quite a bit given our upcoming elections, but an underlying issue in healthcare is that it’s still very paper-based. Technology solutions for healthcare providers simply haven’t been as convenient or reliable as old-fashioned charts. Of course, information that is digital is often buried in siloed, proprietary systems that aren’t easy to access and often don’t integrate well with one another.

Add to the mix that consumers are now taking a more active role in their healthcare and demanding that providers and plans communicate to them in new ways – driven by the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies – and it becomes fairly clear that a sea change is taking place in the industry. When looking at the issues facing health care today, it becomes clear that a company like Microsoft can help solve many of these issues through integration and industry partner network. The familiarity of Microsoft technology can really help healthcare organizations and governments – the largest healthcare providers in the world – to increase the efficiency and accuracy, and thereby reduce errors, in utilizing their existing technologies.

PressPass: Last year, Steve Ballmer addressed HIMSS attendees during his keynote about how technology can transform healthcare. What has Microsoft done over the last year to build upon that vision?

Shihadeh: Over the last year, Microsoft has taken several steps toward addressing systematic issues plaguing the system, such as the need to digitize content and give consumers more direct control over their health information and overall care. In October, we rolled out HealthVault, a consumer software and services platform aimed at helping people better manage their health information. In conjunction, we also announced the availability of HealthVault Search, a powerful new vertical health search tool designed to work with the platform.

On the business side, last week we announced the Microsoft Amalga Family of Health Enterprise Systems. The Amalga product lineup is a portfolio of enterprise-class health information system solutions spanning clinical, operational and financial functions. These solutions will be demonstrated at HIMSS for the first time.

Finally, within our traditional offerings, we also announced a wave of new products this year that – when combined with our partners’ solutions – have the potential to greatly impact the healthcare space. This includes Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 R2 with built-in Radio-frequency identification (RFID), which allows hospitals and providers to track medical assets. And Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 provides rich business intelligence capabilities to administrators, doctors and staff. In terms of overall interoperability, we’re now participating with Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) in helping to further the industry-wide technology standard, XDS.b, enabling better facilitation and exchange of medical records and materials electronically in the simplest manner, helping patients to receive the correct care more quickly and efficiently.

PressPass: What are you announcing at this year’s show?

Steve Aylward, general manager for Microsoft’s U.S. Health and Life Sciences Group
Steve Aylward, general manager for Microsoft’s U.S. Health and Life Sciences Group

Aylward: One of the announcements we’re most excited about is the release of the Microsoft Patient Safety Screening Tool (PSST), a software-based solution designed to help health provider organizations identify and remedy potentially adverse health-related events that affect patients during hospitalization. Built based on Microsoft software, PSST is delivered and supported by health systems integrator Accent on Integration (AOI). The tool features a set of indicators that provide doctors with information on potential in-hospital complications and other events following surgeries and procedures. The first module of the solution is PSST for sepsis, which helps provide early warning signs for the deadly infection that currently affects 750,000 people annually in the United States.

PressPass: What is sepsis exactly, and what is the cost to hospitals and clinical facilities?

Aylward: Sepsis is a life-threatening illness caused by severe infection of the bloodstream and body tissue. It is also commonly referred to as blood poisoning or septicemia. It’s one of the most significant and costly challenges to hospitals and critical care providers, killing nearly a third of those infected. The cost of sepsis care to U.S. hospitals is nearly US$17 billion yearly, accounting for 40 percent of intensive care unit expense. PSST is a tool – based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and other technologies – that streamlines the collection of key patient data and automates information flows between providers, departments and systems. This increases the opportunity for early detection, leading to both improved patient outcomes and savings in emergency care costs.

PressPass: Who is using PSST today?

Aylward: Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, Tenn., is one hospital that is taking proactive steps against sepsis. VUMC is currently conducting a pilot project in which Microsoft’s PSST for Sepsis solution is assisting with the early detection of the disease. The application relies on integration with bedside medical equipment data, as well as lab and registration data, so that clinical workflow items can be automated to prevent the rise of sepsis. We anticipate that the PSST will be commercially available in spring 2008, soon after HIMSS is over. But the overall premise here is integration – of systems, of data, of platforms – from the server room to the bedside, will help increase accuracy and efficiency, and result in fewer medical errors.

PressPass: At HIMSS, you are also announcing the HealthVault ‘Be Well Fund’ and RFP. Why is this announcement important?

Shihadeh: Healthcare needs our attention – the focused attention of many working towards a common goal of empowering providers and patients with solutions. The three million dollar Be Well Fund is designed to empower providers with targeted funding, in order to stimulate the research & development of online tools, which address physician and patient demands. The inability to access information where and when it’s needed is a huge source of frustration to physicians and consumers alike, and can result in incomplete care and wellness decisions. The Fund initiative supports the goal of Microsoft’s HealthVault, which is an ecosystem of health solutions that connect consumers, physicians and the information they need to make informed decisions – decisions that are appropriately personalized based on access to a complete view of an individual’s up-to-date data. The Be Well Fund RFP information can be found at

PressPass: What areas is the fund seeking to target and how much money is available?

Shihadeh: Microsoft is soliciting proposals from a few distinct areas. Primary Prevention Applications include pedometer input/walking/running, heart rate monitor input/exercise, scale input/diet and weight loss, pregnancy and parenting, infectious disease prevention, sleep apnea diagnosis/management, and sexual health/birth control. Secondary Prevention Applications include spirometer input/asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease management, glucometer input/diabetes management, scale input/congestive heart failure management, blood pressure cuff device input/hypertension management, medication management, disability management, STD screening, and more.

Next are acute care applications - Cancer medication management, palliative care/end of life care management, integrated medicine, mental health, addiction, aging and elder care, pain management, and sexual health. Finally, juvenile disease management for issues such as juvenile asthma, diabetes management, and childhood obesity management.

Proposals will be evaluated on their potential to significantly advance the state of the art in one or more areas of study 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.

PressPass: As other technology companies disclose plans to move into the healthcare space, does this change the approach Microsoft is taking?

Shihadeh: Transforming healthcare is an incredibly complex problem – one which no single organization can solve alone. As Microsoft takes on the challenge of helping to bring healthcare to the Internet age, we are working with many other innovative organizations, from leading medical providers, health management device manufacturers, independent software companies and national health agencies. This is a business where being able to span from the enterprise to the consumer, and to do so with innovative partners, is what will eventually change the game. We welcome the participation of other companies who can contribute in a meaningful way.

PressPass: How would you describe Microsoft’s overarching vision for the future of healthcare?

Aylward: Microsoft is building products and services based on a concept that we call knowledge-driven healthcare. This means helping healthcare organizations provide people with the information they need when they need it. Using innovative approaches and flexible technology tools from Microsoft and industry partners, healthcare professionals are able to provide safer, higher-quality, more accessible care that is patient-centric, evidence-based and time- and cost-efficient. And because these solutions are economical and intuitive, providers can quickly improve business and clinical outcomes.

Shihadeh: In the end, our overall vision is to improve health around the world. A company with the reach and resources of Microsoft can play a constructive and long-term role in improving the pace of IT adoption and lowering the overall cost of IT solutions. The dynamics of healthcare are changing and technology is driving much of this transformation. The time is right to transform healthcare around the globe, using the power of software to help people live longer, healthier lives.


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