I’m in New Orleans this week at the Healthcare Information and Management
Systems Society
(HIMSS) 2007 conference.

If you’re not familiar
with HIMSS, the organization’s tag line says it all – “transforming healthcare
through IT.” 

On Monday, Steve Ballmer
(CEO Microsoft) delivered the opening keynote address.

He described how
personalized medicine and our digital lifestyle are causing an information
explosion in medicine. 

This explosion makes it
difficult for care givers, and patients alike, to effectively discover and
apply the information that is relevant to them.

Microsoft believes
“software as a strategic asset is required to bridge the gap”. 

The explosion
Individual patient
information is increasing. As it does,
it becomes possible to use very personal and unique patient characteristics
(e.g., genetics) to determine someone’s predisposition for a disease or to
customize a treatment.

General medical knowledge
is increasing. 

On the patient side, more
(and less medically technical) information is becoming available to individuals
who are increasingly becoming more active in their own healthcare management.

Patients are beginning to
expect richer and more extensive electronic interactions to assist them in this
effort, regarding “computing as a fundamental access point to information.”  

Microsoft’s Response
Observing that healthcare
is the largest segment of the world economy as well as one of the fastest
growing segments, Microsoft has been building capabilities in healthcare for
the last 10 years.  

They now have 600 people
devoted to healthcare, many of whom are medical professionals. They have also
acquired Medstory
and Azyxxi
(more on that later).

Steve believes that three
technological trends have now reached a level of maturity where they, with the
proper guidance from medical professionals, can positively impact healthcare: 

  1. Connecting systems (health systems)
  2. Driving informed decisions (providing and filtering information)
  3. Improving collaboration (for researchers, medical professionals and patients)

I’m planning to spend some
time at their booth today and see what else I learn. One thing on my list is a demo of Azyxxi,
which I will report on later.