Microsoft recently announced that it is partnering with General Electric to create a joint venture aimed at helping health care organizations and professionals use real-time, system-wide intelligence to improve the quality of health care and the patient experience.
According to Microsoft, the new company will develop and market an open, interoperable technology platform and innovative clinical applications focused on enabling better population health management to improve outcomes and the overall economics of health and wellness.
“As health care providers and payers around the globe shift from episodic single-patient care to continuous population management, new requirements have emerged for integrated care processes, greater insight and engaging patient experiences. These delivery system reforms, including a shift toward new payment models, require health care providers to address gaps and integrate data across silos of care delivery to help enable better care coordination and performance improvement,” said Microsoft.
This is good news for health insurers as well. The lack of an open platform that can handle multiple system input is in large part responsible for the fact that sharing electronic health care information has not advanced. If the Microsoft/GE venture performs as promised, it could usher in an era of enhanced communication that should not only mean better patient outcomes, but also a cheaper information dissemination process.
Does this mean that health insurance premiums will eventually decrease? Certainly that could happen, although ongoing economy woes make it seem doubtful at the moment. Such a system, if it works, should mean reduced costs across the industry, including health insurance. With health care costs widely predicted to grow significantly over the next several years, this could be a factor in keeping those costs within reasonable parameters.
The key will be how much it costs the health care players to adapt to a new system when it is developed. The cost associated with system upgrades is among the primary roadblocks currently faced by health care organizations and insurers looking to be on the same page technology-wise.
Microsoft says the new company will deliver a distinctive, open platform that will give health care providers and independent software vendors the ability to develop a new generation of clinical applications. It will also “connect with a wide range of healthcare IT products.” According to the announcement, GE Healthcare IT will immediately be able to connect existing products to the platform, helping current customers to derive new insights.
If that actually happens—and that is a big “if”—the companies will have done a great service to all of us who are insured, and to the industry as a whole.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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