Microsoft Prescribes Digital Pharma Framework

Microsoft is hoping drug companies facing compliance, research and business pressures will turn to software bundled into its new industry initiative to ease the pain.

At the Pharmaceutical Technology Congress this week in Philadelphia, Microsoft announced a full-scale strategy for addressing the IT needs of the pharmaceutical industry. Microsoft originally launched its health care and life sciences group ten years ago.

"Microsoft has stepped up and said we think we can have impact in the pharmaceutical industry," said Microsoft Enterprise Sales and Industry Strategist Paul Mattes. "Microsoft is not dipping into it in a transient way."

Dubbed "Digital Pharma," the solutions framework is intended to help pharmaceutical companies to improve productivity, integrate disparate data sources and facilitate collaboration—with all of these processes gaining ground across research, manufacturing, and marketing and sales.

"The pharmaceutical industry is facing multiple challenges, from pricing pressure to complex regulatory compliance requirements, all of which are converging," said Tim Smokoff, managing director for Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences.

"Microsoft is committed to enabling drug manufacturers to realize their potential of developing safer and more efficacious innovations that can improve peoples health, by delivering a solutions framework that will provide guidance and catalyze operational efficiency," Smokoff said.

The initiative is based on open industry standards such as Web Services and XML and life sciences industry-specific standards such as the CDISC (Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium).

Microsofts .NET Framework, the programming model for building XML-based Web services and applications, is also at the heart of the technical vision. Microsoft is hoping that its ubiquity on the desktop will encourage partners to create deep, data-driven products with familiar interfaces like those of Microsoft Office.

Eighteen companies joined Microsoft in the announcement, pledging to build their pharmaceutical industry solutions on Microsoft platforms.

The companies included Accenture, Covansys Corp., DataLabs Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Immedient Corp., Manhattan Associates Inc., Meridio, Merit Solutions Software Inc., Motion Computing Inc., OnSphere Corp., OSISoft Inc., OutlookSoft Corp., ProClarity Corp., Project Assistants Inc., Proscape Technologies Inc., QUMAS, Siebel Systems Inc. and Tectura Corp.

The Microsoft-based solutions offered by these companies range from clinical trials design and management software from Covansys and DataLabs, to electronic document and records management software from Meridio and OnSphere, to compliance software from Merit Solutions Software and QUMAS, to performance management software from OSISoft and OutlookSoft.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read M.L. Bakers column on the responsibilities of software vendors regarding medical errors.

One example of a Digital Pharma product is CLP (Closed Loop Promotion) from Proscape, an offering from Accenture. CLP enables pharmaceutical sales representatives to use pen-based, touch-screen Tablet PCs to collaborate and rapidly exchange information as well as to use a Web-based interface to retrieve customer and product information while in the field. Accenture, Microsoft, and Siebel all worked together with Proscape to create this product.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about Hewlett-Packards digital pen and paper technology and its uses in the field of health care.

Beyond sharing a Microsoft platform, the primary shared aims of these companies targeting the pharmaceutical industry are to enable the access of disparate resources and data in a timely and useful way across the value chain, as well as to enhance return on IT investment.

"This is not a launch and run away sort of thing," concluded Microsofts Mattes. "Were going to continue to work with partners and customers to refine the vision. Its a huge step for us. Were very, very excited about it."

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