Microsoft forges ahead in healthcare, while Google said to pull back

Microsoft is moving full-steam ahead with its healthcare push, while Google may be pulling back -- and possibly pulling out all together -- from the electronic medical records space.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is moving full-steam ahead with its healthcare push, while Google may be pulling back -- and possibly pulling out all together -- from the electronic medical records space.

Up until early March, Microsoft had been treating its Health Solutions Group as an "incubation," even though that group was staffing up and fielding a variety of cloud and on-premises health services and software. But on March 7, Microsoft moved the Health Solutions Group into the Microsoft Business Solutions organization headed by Corporate Vice President Kirill Tatarinov. (The analysts at Directions on Microsoft pointed out this organizational change, which a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed for me this week.)

Microsoft's HealthVault personal-health-record service, as well as the Amalga integration and analysis products are now in the same business unit as Dynamics CRM and Dynamics ERP products. Corporate Vice President Peter Neupert will remain the head of the Health Solutions unit, which will retain its own sales force and partner channel, Directions on Microsoft noted.

Google, for its part, seemingly is backing away from its Google Health initiative. The Wall Street Journal reported on March 26, in an article on Google's new priorities under Larry Page (who becomes CEO on April 4) that Google plans to provide "less support" to Google Health, going forward.

A March 27 research note posted by the Gerson Lehrman Group consultancy went a step further, stating that Google is dropping Google Health.

"Google Health being dropped is a setback for Electronic Medical Records (EMRS) in three ways: 1) Widespread adoption through cloud access; 2) Time-to-market and payback; and 3) Cross-industry collaboration," the Gerson Lehrman note said.

I asked Google officials whether the Gerson Lehrman note was accurate and what would happen to users' data if and when Google pulled out of the electronic health records space, and was told by a spokesperson that ""We don't comment on rumor or speculation."

Google Health competes head-to-head with Microsoft's HealthVault. Google Health, which Google had been developing since 2006, was released in beta form to consumers in 2008. Google Health is a personal health-records service. Google has signed up a number of health-provider partners as part of the initiative. There is nothing on the Google Health site that indicates that Google is phasing out the project, but there have been few (if any) updates to the Google Health site since last fall.

HealthVault also is a "personal health application platform," in Microsoft's words. Microsoft launched the beta of HealthVault in 2007 and went "live" with the HealthVault service in September 2009. In 2010, Microsoft launched a new HealthVault deliverable, known as HealthVault Community Connect, which is a SharePoint-based offering for managing medical-records-processing workflows, providing automation on the patient entry and discharge fronts.

In addition to HealthVault and Amalga, Microsoft also is offering identity- and access-management software for the healthcare industry via the Sentillion acquisition the company made in 2009. Microsoft also has a Healthcare Innovation Lab, and is working on introducing the Kinect sensor, the Surface multitouch table and Xbox technologies into its healthcare line-up.

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