Microsoft, GE Tackle Healthcare Analytics, Data Aggregation

Joint venture will market an open source technology platform and develop applications that focus on interoperability and advanced analytics.

Neil Versel, Contributor

December 12, 2011

3 Min Read

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For the second time in a year, General Electric's GE Healthcare subsidiary is establishing a joint venture with a major technology partner, this time, software giant Microsoft.

In forming the venture, Microsoft is effectively exiting the enterprise health IT business, as the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth will transfer its Amalga healthcare data aggregation and analytics platform to the new entity. The yet-unnamed venture also will take ownership of single sign-on products Microsoft Vergence and Microsoft expreSSO, as well as health information exchange platform GE Healthcare eHealth, and GE clinical knowledge application Qualibria. The latter is a project with longtime GE development partners Intermountain Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic.

Microsoft will retain full ownership of HealthVault, its widely publicized but underutilized consumer-centric personal health records platform, Microsoft health solutions group general manager Nate McLemore told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The joint venture will leverage that," he said.

Likewise, GE Healthcare will keep its Centricity electronic health record and related products, as well as its long-established medical device business.

[ Legally, EHRs are double-edged swords: They protect clinicians from malpractice litigation but also put them at greater risk. See Will Your EHR Land You In Court? ]

"The complementary nature of GE Healthcare's and Microsoft's individual expertise will drive new insights, solutions, and efficiencies to further advance the two companies' shared vision of a connected, patient-centric healthcare system," GE chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said in a joint statement.

The 50-50 venture, which will launch in the first half of 2012 pending regulatory approval, will market an open-source technology platform and develop clinical applications with a focus on interoperability of health data and advanced analytics. Both companies said that a joint venture is the fastest way to react to a market that's shifting from looking at patients in isolation to paying greater attention to improving population health.

"The amount of data in healthcare is growing exponentially," McLemore noted. But that information remains difficult to access, particularly at the point of care.

"We were really intrigued by the platform nature of Amalga to pull data together," said McLemore. He reported seeing a number of hospitals and health systems building their own applications on top of the Microsoft product and said that a joint venture was the fastest way to bring together some of the expertise of health systems to enhance the product.

Dr. Brandon Savage, chief medical officer of GE Healthcare, highlighted the role that Salt Lake City-based Intermountain will play in the new entity. "They've really perfected a lot of healthcare processes. The challenge for them is to create connected infrastructure," Savage said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare."

Analytics and data aggregation will play central roles in the venture, as healthcare organizations look to improve the quality of care and operate more efficiently. "One of the keys to 'big data' is that you have to get enough data to make it big," Savage said.

The two companies said the venture is particularly interested in addressing problems such as hospital-acquired infections and supporting chronic disease management. Both areas will be central to the success or failure of accountable care organizations.

McLemore promised more information on the joint venture at the 2012 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual conference in late February.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Neil Versel


Neil Versel is a journalist specializing in health IT, mobile health, patient safety, quality of care & the business of healthcare. He’s also a board member of @HealtheVillages.

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