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July 01, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 13)

Microsoft Strengthens Its Involvement in Life Sciences

Firm’s Health Solutions Group Extends Reach through Rosetta Biosoftware Purchase

  • Amalga Unified Intelligence System

    Karkanias and Peter Neupert, corporate vp of the health solutions group, started Microsoft’s life science endeavors with the 2006 acquisition of Azyxxi, a software platform designed by physicians at Medstar’s Washington Hospital Center. The system, based on a Microsoft framework, allowed physicians to bring together all types of patient data from hundreds of sources and make it instantly available at the point of care. Caregivers gained immediate access to patient data, including EKGs, scanned documents, x-rays, CT and MRI scans, angiograms, and ultrasound images, Karkanias reports.

    The Azyxxi software formed the backbone of Microsoft’s Amalga Unified Intelligence System (UIS). Microsoft plans to integrate Rosetta software, as part of Amalga Life Sciences 2009, into Amalga UIS to provide “synergistic advantages to make translational medicine feasible,” explains Karkanias. Amalga UIS already has situational awareness built into it to assist physicians with point-of-care decisions, he adds. In the future, the platform will allow physicians to understand the genetics of a cancer patient in order to select the best treatments. 

    Several hospitals have already acquired Amalga UIS. At Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, Amalga UIS serves as a capstone over all the hospital’s different databases to improve its continuous performance improvement (CPI) processes. CPI is the ability to understand what happens in different clinical and nonclinical departments to find ways to improve performance and serve patients. Amalga UIS also reportedly speeds translational medicine by aggregating data locked inside separate information systems. “Some of the most exciting ways to use Amalga have yet to be discovered,” says Tom Hansen, M.D., CEO at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

    St. Joseph’s Health System in California uses Amalga UIS to access information across its system, improve critical care decisions, and identify disease trends in the community. Amalga UIS unlocks valuable data locked inside clinical, financial, and administrative silos to improve patient care and operational efficiency, says CMO Clyde West, M.D. “Amalga is an indispensable tool that will take us to the next level to deliver the best possible care to the community we serve.”

    Most physicians rely on patients to tell them their past health history, an inefficient way to operate. The Wisconsin Health Information Exchange (WHIE) adopted Amalga UIS to integrate regional hospital systems that store data in different formats to improve quality, accessibility, safety, and efficiency. Aggregated information is also ent to public health authorities to track acute or epidemic disease patterns. WHIE’s goal is to link information not only regionally, but also nationally and internationally. “We’ve only just scratched the surface of the opportunities for Amalga,” says Kim Pemble, executive director of WHIE.

    The latest version of Amalga UIS allows patients to monitor their own health through a personal Health Vault account that stores all health records in one place and shares them with doctors. Patients can access their own medical records on home computers or cell phones, and they are linked to pharmacies, insurance providers, and manufacturers of medical devices. For instance, daily blood pressure or blood glucose readings taken by an elderly parent at home can be sent to children who live in another state for remote monitoring.

    Health Vault also is available as a stand-alone service independent of Amalga UIS. The Hawaii Medical Associate Services offers Health Vault to its patients, and physicians there see a bright future for Health Vault in treating the six million tourists who visit Hawaii yearly. Online records could be quickly obtained to insure the best outcomes for travelers who become ill on vacation.

    The health solutions group was formed four years ago with a staff of four. Today the department employs 440 people. “We work on an accelerating curve, and as new parts become available to assemble, people will find novel ways to explore new areas,” Karkanias says.

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