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Microsoft Plants Bigger Stakes in Health IT

Microsoft  said today that it will acquire medical search vendor Medstory for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition, announced at the Health Information and Management Systems Society Conference in New Orleans, represents a strategic move for Microsoft in the health care arena. This market is getting renewed attention this year thanks to state and federal government initiatives aimed at reducing costs and improving the efficiency of the country's health care system.

Microsoft, citing statistics from Pew Internet and American Life showing that 8 million people search for medical information online every day, said that the Medstory site improves its chances of finding the right kind of information. The search engine uses contextual information to provide search results that are relevant to the search topic and more granular than high-level URLs.

Bill Crounse, worldwide health director at Microsoft, said that Medstory also weighs information based on scientific validity, which helps patients get more accurate information.

Crounse, who is also a practicing physician, noted that patients do a lot of their own research, which means that sometimes they know more about their diseases than their doctors do. But other times, the information they get is "not so good."

"The nature and role of the patient-physician relationship is going through a kind of migration ... which ultimately is good for consumers and providers," he told internetnews.com.

Microsoft also used today's conference to announce the availability of the Connected Health Framework Architecture and Design Blueprint.

The framework offers a vendor-agnostic approach for integrating disparate transactional and data systems within health care organizations. The blueprint, which is free to download, provides guidance to help those organizations address key issues, such as service delivery capability, capacity and reliability, in the context of very specific and onerous privacy and compliance concerns.

Crounse said this framework is the first step toward helping organizations create the foundation for personal electronic health records and for efficient transaction systems.

"Once this is in place and we can start interacting with disparate elements, then information can be exposed to different services and we can get to the connected health system where we all want to go."



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