Microsoft readies a consumer healthcare platform

Summary:Microsoft has made no secret about the fact it has designs on being a healthcare-IT contender. But what the company has kept under wraps, at least until now, was what it planned to do on the consumer side of the healthcare space.

Microsoft has made no secret about the fact it has designs on being a healthcare-IT contender. But what the company has kept under wraps, at least until now, was what it planned to do on the consumer side of the healthcare space.

Sure, there've been hints here and there that Microsoft was readying some kind of "Windows Live Healthcare" offering. And it's not a huge surprise that Microsoft would be considering some kind of consumer-facing offering, given that Microsoft rival Google and AOL Founder Steve Case's Revolution Health are rushing headlong into the patient-information world.

Microsoft is, indeed, readying a consumer healthcare platform, confirmed Steve Shihadeh, General Manager for Sales, Marketing and Solutions with Microsoft's Health Solutions Group.

"We are focused on both the enterprise and consumer space," Shihadeh said, during a meeting we had in New York this week. Healthcare isn't just another vertical market to Microsoft. Microsoft's Health Solutions Group has over 600 employees in health-related sales, marketing and product development  roles across a handful of groups. (There are 13 physicians on staff, as well.) The Health Sciences Solutions Group an incubation project that falls under Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie's domain.

Products already known to be part of Microsoft Health Solutions' purview are the Medstory medical Web-search engine that Microsoft bought in February, and Azyxxi, an integrated "health intelligence" system that Microsoft acquired in July 2006.

Microsoft is looking to Medstory to allow users to conduct and save searches via which they will be able to "build a personal health record," Shihadeh explained.

But beyond that, Microsoft is looking for the best way to create a consumer-health platform, which would provide users with a centralized, secure way to access their health information, which could include anything from their medical records, to their health-related Web searches, to their exercise schedules.

"We think people will want their records on their PC, but also on a secure server in the cloud, where you could give physicians access to them, if you choose to do so," Shihadeh said.

(Yep, it sounds like Software + Services is, not surprisingly, on the Health Solutions strategy docket.)

Shihadeh wasn't yet ready to talk specifics about how and when Microsoft will make such a platform available to consumers. My bet? We'll see the Redmondians roll out one or more Windows-Live-type healthcare services, via which they'll be able to store and access their health information. I'd wager there will be an equivalent set of business/enterprise services aimed at hospitals who want secure access to that same information (with the patients' consent, of course).

How would you feel about a Microsoft healthcare platform/service? Would you trust it any more/less than a Google one?

Topics: Health, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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