At the World Health Care Congress from April 17 to 19, Microsoft released its vision for "knowledge driven health plans" in conjunction with 22 companies that will provide solutions based on its framework.
Unlike other segments of the health care industry, health insurers have proven themselves much more motivated and adept at incorporating IT.
In the last several years, the industry has undergone rapid consolidation and has come under pressure to effectively integrate IT.
Among health plans, "there has been enormous disruption and a lot of competitive threat," notes Dennis Schmuland, M.D., director of Microsofts health plan industry solutions.
"They now have the business motivation to connect with providers, consumers and other plans," said Schmuland.
"We believe they can actually move the dial forward and catalyze a meaningful transformation in health IT."
Microsoft is hoping to capitalize on its consumer-friendly software, ease of use and ubiquity. And what Microsoft may lack in health care expertise, it is banking that its network of vendors will provide.
Companies committing to work with Microsofts health plan initiative include health IT companies like Allscripts, Health Dialog and Healthways, as well as business process management companies that provide a service-oriented architecture such as Proclarity, Quilogy and Above All Software.
Over the last five years, Microsoft has transformed its health plan division and increased its size from five employees to about 500. Its already worked with most major health care payers.
The solutions for health plans based on Microsofts framework are designed to span business areas, from care management to business intelligence, enterprise-wide project management to risk management and risk compliance, and member-centric communications.
For example, Horizon Healthcare Services is one health plan that implemented Microsofts BizTalk Server to provide translation and orchestration services for its provider portal applications and HIPAA transactions.
Horizon has reportedly achieved improved visibility into transactions, increased first-call resolution of support requests and projects a 50 percent reduction in cost of ownership.
Premera Blue Cross worked with Microsoft technology to develop a tool that coordinates complex patient treatment programs.
The tool helps case managers set their priorities, track their work and show outstanding tasks more efficiently.
The solution has realized a 25 percent increase in efficiency and a 17 percent increase in case manager job satisfaction.
The United Kingdoms National Health Service also turned to Microsoft. The NHS provides health care for the 60 million citizens of the United Kingdom.
In anticipation of a greater number of patients and health care providers needing to access information using its Web site, the NHS realized that it needed to improve site performance.
After migrating to Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0, the organization saw a five-fold increase in performance and up to a 40 percent increase in developer productivity.