Microsoft announced plans Dec. 10 to acquire Sentillion, a privately held health care IT company. On its Website, Sentillion advertises itself as producing "identity and access management technology" that allows hospitals and caregivers to incorporate and control "islands of computerized automation into cohesive care delivery workflows."
Terms of the deal, which is expected to close early in 2010, were not disclosed.
Microsoft plans to invest in Sentillion's technologies along with its own, but will leave the acquisition and management of Sentillion's customer base to the smaller company. Sentillion's products include Vergence, a clinical workstation platform that streamlines caregivers' access to applications and patient data, and Tap & Go and Tap2, which provide instant access to clinical applications with the "tap of a passive proximity badge," according to the company's Website.
"Microsoft and Sentillion share a vision of a connected health system in which the free and rapid flow of information, coupled with streamlined access to a hospital's myriad health care applications, empowers doctors and nurses to perform their roles with greater insight, speed and effectiveness," Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft Health Solutions Group, said in a Dec. 10 statement.
Microsoft has partnered with other entities for health care IT initiatives throughout 2009. In June, the company announced a deal with the American Medical Association to give physicians access to patient records stored in Microsoft's HealthVault application via a Web-based portal. This followed an April announcement that the Mayo Clinic would use HealthVault technology for its Mayo Clinic Health Manager, which allows patients to upload data from home health devices and receive reminders about their medical care.
HealthVault is an encrypted online repository where patients can store medical information. Launched in October 2007, the application's revenue was originally intended to come from advertising linked to its search engine.
Microsoft faces increased competition in the health care IT space from rivals such as Google, which debuted Google Health, its own online resource for storing personal health information, in February 2008. Google updated the service in March 2009 to allow users to send data to doctors and other contacts.
Google's recent health care partnerships include CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) for a pilot program that would allow Medicare beneficiaries to input their Medicare claims into Google Health.
Intel and Oracle have also attempted to enter the health care IT field, either by adding new functionality to existing products or by acquiring smaller startups. On July 16, Intel announced that it would add more connectivity options to its Intel Health Guide, a compact white device that allows users to check their recent health history and connect with a physician or health care provider.
The updated Intel Health Guide connects patients and doctors via cable or DSL broadband in addition to 3G or cellular wireless and residential phone service. In April, Intel and General Electric jointly announced that they would invest $250 million over the next five years to develop health care IT technology, including the Intel Health Guide.
These forays by IT companies have run in parallel with the federal government's focus on technology as a way to help streamline the U.S. health care system. During the CEA Line Shows conference in June, U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra discussed the need to bring "innovation platforms" and the cloud into the technological side of health care.
"I'm fascinated by the idea," Chopra said, "that we can interconnect all sorts of things that we never connected before."