When Dr. Craig Feied shows up at Microsoft on his first day of work, he'll have some explaining to do. Feied, an emergency room physician turned IT entrepreneur, is one of about 40 doctors and technologists who will become Microsoft employees under a recently announced deal with MedStar Health
. Feied's job will be to develop software that Microsoft can market to hospitals across the country. But that's surprising for this reason: Feied once said Microsoft shouldn't be meddling in health care.I interviewed Feied a couple of years ago for a story on Microsoft's growing involvement in health care and other industries. Contrary to what Peter Neupert, Microsoft's VP for health strategy, told The New York Times
, the acquisition of MedStar's Azyxxi software isn't "the start" of Microsoft's move into health care. As I wrote at the time, Microsoft had "been hiring doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals in an effort to establish internal expertise about the medical industry's IT needs." It was all part of an aggressive strategy
to sell software to companies in a variety of different industries, including automotive, retail, manufacturing, and, yes, health care.
That's what led me to Dr. Feied, who said this of Microsoft's efforts to break into health care: "The less Microsoft knows about health care, the better it is for all of us. The last thing we want is an overengineered set of solutions built around yesterday's or today's problems."
Obviously, Dr. Feied's thinking has changed since then. And why not? Microsoft's got the resources and reach to take the work he's done and multiply it among thousands of hospitals.
For more on Feied's work, see this 2004 InformationWeek story, "Public Health Watch." It describes software that detects potential threats to public health, including bioterrorism. That software doesn't appear to be part of Microsoft's Azyxxi acquisition.
For some internal Microsoft perspective on the deal, see Bill Crounse's HealthBlog. Ironically, a reader to that blog laments Microsoft's deepening involvement in health care--an echo of Feied's original concern.
So Dr. Feied is about to become a Microsoft employee? Roll up your sleeve, Doc. You might feel a little pinch.