Microsoft Health Care to Focus on Horizontal Tech

Microsoft and its partners can drive health care innovation by focusing on adapting horizontal technologies to meet consumers' health care demands. 

Microsoft and its partners can drive health care innovation by focusing on adapting horizontal technologies to fulfill consumers' health care demands rather than developing industry-specific solutions, according to a company official.

"The future lies in developing consumer-driven applications that leverage horizontal technologies," Steve Aylward, general manager of Microsoft's Health and Life Sciences Industry group, told attendees at Microsoft's Healthcare and Life Sciences Developer Conference April 22 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Aylward said the industry had been mainly focused on the perspectives of the payor and the provider-the "cathedrals" of health care-to the detriment of individual consumers of health information and services, who have very different needs.

Health care consumers demand the types of self-service, anytime access to resources and information that they were used to from other consumer-driven industries, such as banking and financial services and even retail, he said. They're looking for the ability to view and modify health information online, and to communicate with physicians and clinical caregivers via e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging.

Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group, said consumers are using the Web to make their interaction with other types of personal information in the physical world easier, but that kind of interaction doesn't happen in health care.

"There's a lot of things we do in retail [and] financial services that we can't do when we're interacting with the health delivery system," Neupert said.

Consumers already have access to-and are intimately familiar with-technologies that allow them to manipulate personal information and communicate and collaborate any time, anywhere. For Microsoft and partners in the health care and life sciences field, "the future is in developing health care tools and applications for the technology consumers use in their everyday lives," Aylward said, adding that the opportunities are huge for partners to develop applications that drive collaboration between patients, clinicians and administrators, and making those technologies available to every health care consumer.

That horizontal strategy is apparent in Microsoft's HLS fiscal year 2008 update and product release schedule, Aylward said. While updates were slated for Windows, Windows Server, SQL Server, Office and Office SharePoint, none of those technologies specifically related to HLS.

"All these solutions are horizontal. Together we have to keep developing solutions from across the stack and making them work in HLS," he said.