Good Luck With The New Health Care Venture, Microsoft And GE

Microsoft and General Electric announced yesterday they are forming a joint venture that is essentially centered around a niche Microsoft product called Amalga. Amalga is actually really neat software that pulls a patient’s data from disparate databases and aggregates it, thus giving a clinician the big picture. It will be interoperable, meaning it can communicate with software from different vendors, and Microsoft will work with third party developers to build clinical applications. “The average hospital has 100 different IT systems,” says Nate McLemore, general manager of Microsoft Health Solutions Group. Microsoft has 50 customers using Amalga in 250 hospitals. The two partners say the new company, still unnamed, will be in business next April. 

Interoperable, open, are good things. The problem is that not only is the health care industry fragmented, it is also pulled in different directions by powerful players in the electronic health records market, each with their own agenda. They’ve carved up the industry into fiefdoms. Who do you think will be the Microsoft of the health care industry? I asked Neil Patterson, Cerner’s CEO a few years ago. “Cerner,” he answered (not surprising). But it’s also Epic’s goal, as well as Allscripts. The latter allowed third party developers to write clinical applications to its EHR platform earlier this year. 

Now Microsoft is teaming up with GE, but the conglomerate is not a big player in EHR. McLemore says what attracted them to GE is that they’re “global,” and they were “committed to create a joint venture” with Microsoft. He and GE’s chief medical officer Brandon Savage say that Mayo Clinic and other customers were encouraging. Pennsylvania-based hospital system Geisinger is interested. It is an Epic customer, and uses GE’s health information exchange to facilitate the exchange of patient data. Amalga will be an additional tool that allows Geisinger to integrate patient information from community practices.

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