Microsoft Canada is trying to carve itself a fatter slab of the Canadian health-care IT pie with a portal product designed to allow real-time collaboration, telehealth, clinical forms, computerized physician order entry, business intelligence,
directory services, e-mail, databases and integration engines.
Microsoft, which was demonstrating the product at the recent E-Health 2005 conference in Toronto, is first targeting its current customers in the federal government and the provincial ministries of health, with plans to deploy downwards to hospitals, long-term care facilities and doctors’ offices, and eventually to patients, said Barbara Alexander, national health-care director at Microsoft Canada Corp.
The portal is already being used in the U.S. and the U.K. The attraction for users, she said, is that most health-care institutions already use Microsoft desktop and server operating systems and Office applications. Those organizations that have already upgraded to current windows platforms – Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Office 2003 — already have capabilities they probably aren’t even aware of, she said. To create a collaborative health-care portal, all they need to do is have an integrator build an application that will let them put those technologies to work to provide business intelligence and an electronic health record.
One partner, for example, Winnipeg-based Momentum Healthware, has already developed a business portal for health-care facilities. Canadian sales manager Tim Vanderhyde said the majority of Saskatchewan’s health regions as well as almost all of Winnipeg’s long-term care facilities use his company’s Microsoft/Great Plains software.
“We built add-ons to make it more specific to health care,” he said. “Just with the annual support and maintenance they pay our clients now have access to the business portal now available through Microsoft.”
Alexander said research indicates 47 per cent of hospitals will be looking for a business intelligence solution in the next two years.
“Are they aware they already own a lot of what they need in licensing?” she said. “What they really need is someone who understands key performance indicators in health to help them put together a data mart and then post it on a portal with red, yellow and green lights, so every morning they can see if there is a problem area that is lit up.
“They have all the pieces so when you have all this investment, what can you do with that big investment towards the electronic health record?”
Because .Net is mapped to open standards, customers using the product will be Canada Health Infoway-ready, she added.
But while most provincial ministries and hospitals are already Microsoft customers, many — about 63 per cent, according to IDC — have not upgraded their infrastructure since Y2K.
“A lot of times we find people haven’t upgraded because there has been a lack of money, but recently in health care spending has gone from about 1.8 per cent to about 3.9 per cent on software, so it has almost doubled, but it’s still not enough,” said Alexander.