Microsoft, UW Medicine Sign Deal on Health Care Informatics

University of Washington Medicine will expand its use of Microsoft Amalga data-aggregation software to find ways to use the results of basic medical research to improve patient care.

Microsoft and University of Washington Medicine have signed an agreement to collaborate on biomedical informatics technology. Under the deal, UW Medicine will expand its use of Microsoft's Amalga UIS (Unified Intelligence System) data-aggregation platform to further research and medical education and improve patient care.

UW Medicine is a network of medical facilities in the Seattle area.

The collaboration between Microsoft and UW Medicine entails extracting data from text as part of natural language processing and using Amalga to further clinical and translational research. Translational research entails translating knowledge learned from basic sciences and applying it to clinical and community environments.

UW Medicine will also be able to use the informatics tools in various areas of consumer and population health management.

The agreement follows a two-year pilot program between Microsoft and UW Medicine. During this time, UW Medicine's ITHS (Institute of Translational Health Sciences) began testing the Amalga application to attempt to accelerate and improve translational research, Microsoft reports.

"What UW Medicine has achieved to date with Amalga in translational research and quality improvement demonstrates the power of liberating health data from separate systems and putting it into the hands of researchers and clinicians to use in multiple ways," Sean Nolan, chief architect for the Microsoft Health Solutions Group, said in a statement.

By monitoring data using Amalga, UW Medicine is able to compile statistical analysis, improve the care of diabetic patients, lower the occurrences of bed sores and track the rates of acquired infections. The hospital system can also use the software to enlist patients in research studies and link study data with that of other clinical data, Microsoft reports.

Doctors can use Amalga on top of other technology platforms in a medical facility. It provides manageable, cohesive view of data, including single patient electronic health records and connects to statewide HIEs (health information exchanges), according to Microsoft. Amalga allows UW Medicine and other health care companies to access electronic records from different databases.

Other medical facilities using Microsoft Amalga include New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Johns Hopkins Health System, and St. Joseph Health System, Microsoft reports.

Amalga, HealthVault and HealthVault Community Connect are the key components of Redmond's health care IT portfolio.

HealthVault allows patients to manage their EHRs via the Web and share them with family members and health care professionals, and HealthVault Community Connect enables medical facilities to send patients instructions electronically after they leave the hospital.

The Community version also allows consumers to send doctors data from their HealthVault accounts.

"By working together to help refine this product, both UW Medicine and Microsoft have committed to furthering the development of methods and tools that will help us unleash the enormous potential for electronic biomedical data to advance research and improve health," Dr. Peter Tarczy-Hornoch, UW professor and head of the of the Division of Biomedical and Health Informatics, said in a statement.

UW Medicine's licensing of Amalga, announced on Dec. 8, is subject to approval by an institutional review board and HIPAA regulations.

As part of its health care IT efforts, in February 2010 Microsoft announced that it would integrate Eclipse's Sunrise Enterprise suite into Amalga. The Sunrise Enterprise software allows doctors to manage the clinical and revenue aspects of their practice.