Microsoft Acquires Hospital-Developed Software As Part Of Major Health Care Push

The powerful decision-support tool captures, integrates, and displays data from wherever it was created within a health care environment.
Microsoft today said it's acquiring and will commercialize health-intelligence software created by a team of doctors and developers at a Washington, D.C., hospital operated by MedStar Health, with which Microsoft has forged a new alliance.

The acquisition of the Azyxxi software is potentially one of Microsoft's biggest moves to date in the mainstream health-care industry. The software, built on Microsoft.NET Framework with Microsoft SQL Server database software, is a powerful decision-support tool that can capture, integrate, and display data from wherever it was created within a health-care environment.

A key strength of Azyxxi is that it lets users query data from disparate systems, including clinical and business systems, that wouldn't traditionally share data. That means the software allows clinicians to query from one portal data on hospital systems from other tech vendors, including legacy systems, scanned data, and medical images like CAT scans, MRIs, and X-rays.

Doctors at MedStar's Washington Hospital Center, which began developing the software for internal use in 1996, use Azyxxi to check which rooms patients are in, look at their latest blood test results, compare those results to the other patients' aggregate results, view X-rays, and then check whether a patient's insurance has denied coverage for any tests—all with a few clicks, says Dr. Craig Feied, a Washington Hospital Center physician who works on the team of doctors and developers that created Azyxxi.

Feied is among 40 MedStar doctors and developers who are joining Microsoft as part of Microsoft's alliance with MedStar. Right now, seven MedStar hospitals are using Azyxxi. The new team joining Microsoft will continue working and enhancing the software for commercial use by other health-care providers.

Azyxxi software in a health-care environment is akin to business-intelligence tools used in other industries, says Peter Neupert, corporate VP of Microsoft's health solutions group, which was launched last September when Neupert joined the company to coordinate Microsoft's global health strategy.

The software is "an engine for change in the clinical environment at every layer," says Neupert. "It leverages all investments health care has made, no matter how old and dusty or how new and innovative."

Microsoft has not yet set a timeline of when a commercial version of Azyxxi will be available.

The health-care market is an increasingly important industry focus for Microsoft. "The health-care sector could gain great benefits from health IT," says Neupert. "Health care has long under invested in IT, compared to other industries like retail."

Indeed, the health-care industry is slowly undergoing a digital transformation particularly as government and researchers push doctors, hospitals, and other care providers to implement electronic systems that can reduce medical errors, improve patient safety, and eliminate redundancies and costs.

President Bush two years ago set the goal for most Americans to have electronic health records by 2014. Last week, the Institute of Medicine issued a report recommending that all U.S. doctors and hospitals adopt e-prescribing by 2010 to reduce the 1.5 million preventable drug mistakes that are estimated to happen annually in the country.