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The New Healthcare Team: GE & Microsoft

Posted on December 13, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Jeremy Bikman. You can read more about the GE and Microsoft Venture on EMR and EHR.


Guest Post: Jeremy Bikman is Chairman at KATALUS Advisors, a strategic consulting firm focused on the healthcare vertical. We help vendors grow, guide hospitals into the future, and advise private equity groups on their investments. Our clients are found in North America, Europe, and Asia. www.KATALUSadvisors.com

Healthcare is being held hostage and it doesn’t even know it.

It is held hostage by burdensome regulations, by archaic practices, and (oddly enough) by technology itself. In this age of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, an age where anybody with internet access can connect to somebody else on the other side of the globe and share personal information and other data with the click of a mouse, it is impossible that you could visit a hospital in the next town over and they would be able to procure your personal health information as easily or as quickly.

Healthcare, globally and locally, is utterly huge and mind-blowingly complex, and thus absolutely needs the very best innovation of everybody involved. Yet, healthcare technology companies almost universally deliver products which are built on closed-minded concepts. They lock down their platforms, creating real barriers to interoperability, patient data exchange, and actual innovation. This is the present reality within, and across, practically every hospital on earth. The recently announced joint venture between GE and Microsoft offers hope of an alternate reality, one where hospitals can bring together data streams from all over the enterprise, while utilizing new innovations and technology as they see fit, including different best-of-breed sources.

Giving Hospitals a New Choice
There are huge flaws in how technology is delivered in healthcare today, flaws which impact quality of care within a hospital and across the entire industry irrespective of country or region. While the rest of the tech world is moving towards open platforms and collaborative delivery models, healthcare seems to be stuck in the dark ages of single-source solutions which compel all-or-nothing investments to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. Too often those investments fail. But, the more important question is why must hospitals be forced into all-or-nothing decisions in the first place? Why must they choose between integration and functionality, between a single platform, however mediocre, and a best-of-breed mix? We believe those are questions of the antiquated past and that brave new innovation can deliver a new avenue for hospitals who refuse to be painted into a corner. Hospitals shouldn’t have to choose between apples and oranges. They want, and should be able to get, both.

The Basics of the Joint Venture
Selected product lines from both companies’ health groups will be part of the new company. These products were chosen for their specific focus on “empowering connected patient-centric care.”

GE is contributing an interoperable clinical data model and decision support system via Qualibria. GE’s eHealth is an HIE solution in use at a large number of sites in North America. Microsoft is bringing Amalga to the table, which is a data aggregation platform which facilitates interoperability and a host of other advanced capabilities. Vergence and expreSSO come through Microsoft’s acquisition of Sentillion and provide strong context management and single sign-on solutions. The strategy appears to be one of leveraging Microsoft’s platform technology (Amalga) to underpin GE’s clinical depth (Qualibria, eHealth). Additionally, this model will allow hospitals and vendors to integrate best-of-breed 3rd party products into the ecosystem as they see fit. This mix of products and capabilities will enable a true best-of-breed environment emerge while still having the core elements of integration as well. This ecosystem will be powered by the partnership’s own applications and those built by ISVs. No other major vendor offers this unique model and set of abilities, although Allscripts is the one traditional EMR vendor that is building a strategy of accepting of 3rd party solutions.

Tackling the Big Problems

No one is saying that this joint venture is guaranteed to be a resounding success. However, we applaud the visionary model and risks this new team is taking. It looks like they want to address all the big hairy obstacles that every provider organization, region, and nation is facing. Big data? Absolutely. Enterprise analytics and business intelligence? Yes. Clinical decision support? For sure. Population management? You bet. Nobody else in the industry has shown they can tackle these issues even though every hospital is clamoring for this type of model. So why not this joint venture between GE and Microsoft? We say good luck, and more power to them.

The principals of KATALUS Advisors have worked with hundreds of healthcare organizations, vendors, and other consulting firms across the globe. The opinions expressed here are our own and are not intended to promote any specific vendor and do not reflect those of any other organization or individual.

Is MUMPS the Major Healthcare Interoperability Problem?

Posted on November 11, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Jeremy Bikman from KATALUS Advisors wrote this interesting comment on a LinkedIn discussion I was participating in:

Perhaps there is a place for MUMPS but only if healthcare continues to thumb its nose at the prevailing technology trends. It’s hard for me to envision healthcare to continue to embrace a technology that doesn’t like to play nicely with other non-MUMPS systems. If there were real advantages to it you would see a fair number of high tech firms utilizing it (Facebook, salesforce.com, Twitter, Spotify, etc).

If your goal is to have an enterprise system with a database that has some scale to it and certainly has good speed, and you don’t really care about interoperability with other systems, then MUMPS is certainly a good viable option. But IMO, the days of healthcare IT being insular, and moving out of phase with the rest of the tech world, are numbered.

I found this comment incredibly interesting. Mostly because I’ve never personally believed that the fact that many of the larger healthcare IT and EMR systems are built on MUMPS was any part of the reason why healthcare entities aren’t interoperable. I’m a tech guy by background, but I’ve never worked on a MUMPS software system myself so I don’t have first hand knowledge of MUMPS in particular. However, it seems wrong to “blame” MUMPS on the lack of healthcare data interoperability.

I guess the way I look at it is that no matter which database back end you have, you’re always going to need some front end interface to take care of the transport of the healthcare data to another system. Is this any harder with MUMPS than another SQL or even NOSQL database? From my experience it shouldn’t matter. I’d love to hear if there are reasons why it is harder.

I also don’t want to give the impression that Jeremy is trying to say that MUMPS is the only reason that healthcare IT has been so insular and closed. I’m pretty sure he agrees with me that a lot of other factors that have stopped healthcare from sharing data. I just don’t believe that MUMPS is one of those reasons.

Of course, the question of whether MUMPS should continue in healthcare is a different question. In fact, I wrote about MUMPS in healthcare IT and EMR here.

What are your thoughts? Is MUMPS the problem with healthcare interoperability? What are the other reasons stopping healthcare interoperability?

Update: Jeremy Bikman provided the following clarifying comment in the comments of this post:
Good points John. I really should have clarified. MUMPS is not really the issue (although I still stand by my assertion that if it was such a superior technology you’d see it all over Silicon Valley, RTP, etc). The main issue is really with the walled garden (w/ razor wire and machine guns along the top) approach of the major EMR/HIS vendors that have it as their foundation.

The more control you exert over your clients and the harder you make it to connect with other systems, the more money you can make…at least in the short-term.

John’s thought: I still look forward to the discussion around MUMPS and interoperability and healthcare interoperability in general.