Slowly but surely, the controversial health care bill is making its way through the U.S. Senate. After all the ups and downs, it's starting to look like some form of reform will come to the U.S. after all. And where there is change, there is a business opportunity.
This was driven home by Microsoft's announcement last week that it is acquiring health care IT and identity management company Sentillion. Microsoft's move served as one more reminder of industry's efforts to capitalize on the changing health care landscape.
Microsoft has greatly increased its presence in the health care IT space in 2009. Six months ago, the Microsoft and the American Medical Association announced plans to give physicians access to patient records stored in Microsoft's HealthVault application via a Web-based portal. This came on the heels of an April announcement that the Mayo Clinic would use HealthVault technology, thus allowing patients to upload data from home health devices and receive reminders about their medical care. As Peter Neupert, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Health Solutions Group points out in a rather self-serving manner: "Reform and innovation are inseparable."
Microsoft's push to manage all of our health data is getting help from a lot of think tanks and consultants. As reported in Information Age, in June 2009, a report entitled "It's ours: Why we, not the government, must own our data" was published by the Centre for Policy Studies, a right-wing UK think tank. That report, which introduced the topic of data handling to the classic private versus public debate, seemed to strike a chord with senior members of the Conservative party in the UK.
Clearly there is money to be made. For example, Kaiser Permanente, a nonprofit health plan based in California, spent $4 billion making the switch from paper to electronic records, in what Kaiser claims was the largest nonmilitary installation in the country. With that much money at stake, it's a question of "when?" not "if?" the health care backbone will be run by companies like Google and Microsoft.
So, are you ready for ad-supported prescriptions and malware attacks on networked medical devices?
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