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Microsoft and GE plan healthcare IT company

Microsoft and General Electric intend to merge some of their existing products into an 'open, interoperable platform' for clinical applications
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

Microsoft and General Electric are to set up a global healthcare IT joint venture, the companies said on Wednesday.

The as-yet-unnamed company will develop an open, interoperable technology platform for clinical applications, Microsoft and GE said, adding that the apps would be created in-house. The platform will apparently connect to a "wide range" of healthcare IT products, the first of which will come from GE's own product line.

"High-quality, affordable healthcare is one of the biggest challenges facing every nation, but it's also an area where technology can make a huge difference," Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said in a statement. "Combining Microsoft's open, interoperable health platforms and software expertise with GE's experience and healthcare solutions will create exciting opportunities for patients and healthcare providers alike."

The new platform will support data being sent from at-home devices such as scales and glucometers. Apart from aiding chronic disease management, the platform's planned ability to pull together data from a wide spectrum of disparate systems would also yield data that could help doctors fight hospital infections, the companies said.

Microsoft is already in the healthcare business with US-focused medical records products including the consumer-oriented HealthVault, and other data management systems for clinicians, such as Amalga. Previously, it worked with the NHS in 2007 to develop Microsoft Health Common User Interface, an open-source platform to unify the way health systems present data and services.

High-quality, affordable healthcare is one of the biggest challenges facing every nation, but it's also an area where technology can make a huge difference.
– Steve Ballmer, Microsoft

The company saw a competitor disappear when Google pulled out of the healthcare business earlier this year, and Microsoft now provides a tool to help people transfer their data from soon-to-be-killed-off Google Health accounts to HealthVault.

GE, meanwhile, has long been working with Intel on e-health products. Those two companies have a separate joint venture, announced in 2009 and subsequently named Care Innovations.

Microsoft and GE's new platform will take in Amalga and Microsoft's Vergence and expreSSO single sign-on products. GE will contribute the intellectual property for its eHealth health information exchange and Qualibria 'clinical knowledge application environment'.

The companies said on Wednesday that they expected the new joint venture to create new jobs within its first five years. They said they expected it to launch in the first half of 2012, pending regulatory approval.


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