Here's the deal. Microsoft HealthVault's EMR gets a statewide network of providers, which ties it into the ambitions of AT&T to sell network-based VPN services (which cost more than plain Internet) across the country.
But this isn't just a business deal. It's also a political deal.
Turns out today's agreement, which takes AT&T's eHealth system nationwide (written with help from Covisint, part of CompuWare) through a link with HealthVault was actually midwifed by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (above).
It was Bredesen who got AT&T and Covisint together to build out his state's Regional Healthcare Information Exchange (RHIO) back in February.
The Microsoft deal takes that platform nationwide, and could scupper the ambitions of SharedHealth, a competing RHIO organized by the state's Blue Cross Blue Shield group that claims to be the largest in the nation.
Why? SharedHealth is mainly the effort of a single insurer. The new RHIO is centered on hospitals and state offices, and the Microsoft deal makes for a standards-based (or at least standard observant) operation.
The deal comes within a few weeks of HealthVault's agreement with Kaiser Permanente, which could put millions more EMRs into the system.
But that's how a nationwide system of networked EMRs will have to come about, through the dueling ambitions of telecom operators, software companies, hospitals, insurers and politicians.
All of which sets up Bredesen, who is term limited after 2010, in position for either a sweet job in private industry, the Obama Administration or (dare we think it) a run for the U.S. Senate in 2012?
He'll have some big contributors lined up. It's not sterile unless one hand washes the other, rinse, repeat.