Big Tech in Online Health Care Push

Cisco, Dell, Google, IBM and Microsoft all make news at the major health care show.

The race to streamline online access to medical records turned into a stampede this week as leading high-tech vendors trumpeted new initiatives at the Health Information and Management Systems Society" (HIMSS) trade show in Atlanta.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), Dell, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) IBM and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) are all at the conference to tout new and pending deals designed to help consumers, doctors and hospital move to more easily accessible, but also secure, medical histories and information online.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) debuted a new service called Initiate Exchange, while also announcing that it's completed its acquisition of Initiate Systems.

Leveraging a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, Initiate Exchange is designed to help physicians issue orders, access test results and share registration information right from their electronic medical records (EMR) or practice management system. IBM said the SaaS approach makes it easier to add physicians to the system rather than requiring hospitals to develop new computing infrastructure or adding to their existing systems.

"This SaaS model from Initiate allows us to support our mission of improving the health of our communities by being able to quickly connect our physician community while giving us the flexibility to expand the scope at our own pace," Jeff Allport, vice president for IT Solutions Delivery at St. Joseph Health System, said in a statement.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has been pushing greater consumer access to online medical records for several years now and is arguably most responsible for making it a high-profile issue. In a blog post today, the search giant announced that it's integrating Google Health -- which lets consumers store and access and their medical records -- with Surescripts, a leading electronic prescription network in the U.S.

The aim is to accelerate the availability of prescription drug history to users of Google Health. Surescripts provides access to prescription benefit and history information on behalf of health insurance plans, and represents 65 percent of patients in the U.S, according to Google.

Such moves come against a larger backdrop of both industry and government officials seeking better ways to leverage Internet technology and data-sharing in health care. Both IBM and Google noted the efforts of the Obama administration to encourage adoption of electronic health records, including funding incentives for doctors in the American Recovery and Re-investment Act of 2009. IBM also said that under the legislation, health care providers seeking funds must be "meaningfully using health information technology, such as through the reporting of quality measures."

Microsoft's HealthVault Community Connect

Microsoft this week announced expanded services related to HealthVault, its online storage system for medical records that competes with Google Health. The Microsoft HealthVault Community Connect is designed to provide patients and physicians access to electronic copies of patient's personal health data after they've been discharged from the hospital.

The system also lets patients preregister for hospital appointments easily over the Internet by having stored information populate forms in advance. Patients also will be able to log on to a hospital's Web site from any computer with Internet access to view their hospital visit records, Microsoft said. That includes discharge instructions, clinician notes, medications, and laboratory and radiology results.

The HealthVault Community Connect is slated for availability later this summer.

Cisco adds video to health care

Cisco is bringing its video expertise to the push for better, more effective health care. The networking giant said its new HealthPresence offering integrates its Telepresence videoconferencing with its unified communications tools to bring collaboration and personalization to medical consults.

For example, patients using HealthPresence will be able to see images and listen to sounds from a variety of diagnostic devices, such as digital stethoscopes, participating along with clinicians during their procedures by hearing and seeing what their health care provider do.

Cisco claimed HealthPresence will let primary care physicians and specialists, care managers and rehabilitation therapists, family members, and caregivers all participate in treatment and care planning. Availability is slated to start this month in markets across the United States, Canada and Europe.

Early trials have produced positive results, according to Cisco customers.

"Cisco HealthPresence eliminates the need for clinicians and patients to be located in the same physical location. Our facilities are now able to reach a much wider and highly dispersed patient base, in order to provide the appropriate care," Michael Siegel, vice president and medical director of Molina Healthcare, said in a statement.

Dell and the American Medical Association

PC and server giant Dell said it's working with the American Medical Association (AMA) on a system that will help physicians adopt health information technology for electronic medical records, ePrescribing and laboratory services. The AMA plans to launch the information solutions platform for physicians later this year.

Dell said the platform is currently being beta tested in Michigan, in collaboration with the Michigan State Medical Society.

"Physicians are the front line of our health care system, and with the AMA’s new platform, we can help them be more efficient and better connected," AMA Board Member Steven Stack said in a statement. "We are not just connecting physicians with the tools and resources to run their practice, we are helping to create a community for physicians to share information and better coordinate and manage patient care."

A spokesperson for Dell said the company will provide hardware and support services.

"Think of it as an online portal for a variety of IT services for individual physicians," Cathie Hargett of Dell told "We're the AMA's technology partner, and our participation can evolve as this program grows."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: health care, electronic medical records, Google Health, AMA, HealthVault

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