Medsoft – not Microstory. MS Buys Medsoft, Builds Health Division

March 2, 2007

Esther Dyson writes in the Huffington Post about Microsoft’s purchase of Medstory, a health search engine that can be personalized to your own health profile. She acknowledges that the personalization function isn’t there yet, but it’s a great idea.

The Medstory concept reflects the bandwagon I’ve been on for a long time – one which led to the formation of Health Knowledge Systems, although I haven’t had time to move that aspect of it forward as I would have liked (and that effort’s focused in a different direction – post-injury or illness, with corporate and insurance entities as the end payers).

The idea is this: the design flaw in the Internet as it currently exists is that there’s too much information, not too little. The notion of a “cyberspace commons” for all users is wrong, and we need to shift our thinking toward a “personalized commons,” or a “digital lens” that allows us to see only the information we need to see.

The best place to start is where Medsoft started – with the individual. But there are others who need “lenses,” too – physicians, pharmacists, regulators, journalists, researchers, academics, IT professionals …. the list is endless. Each of these populations needs its own set of lenses, and each is its own market.

Is Microsoft the right vehicle for building these multiple platforms, and does it have the will to take Medsoft to the next level? Only time will tell. Within the world of the “personalized commons” alone, we’re only taking baby steps.

As TheStreet.com reports, the web/health interface is hot again. As for Microsoft, Steve Ballmer’s comments in TheStreet.com’s piece reflect the opportunity and the risk. Opportunity? Hell, it’s Microsoft! Ballmer says the area is “longer term and less visible” than other priorities – and they’ve got 600 people on it.

The risk? It’s Microsoft. They’ve got a lot of things going on right now. The quotes from Ballmer and the head of the health group concentrate on hospital systems, which is fine – but it’s also the most complex area of the health care IT landscape, and one with less impact on healthcare as an overall system – clinical, epidemiological, economic, social, and informational – than others.

Will Microsoft find the will and vision to redesign the healthcare landscape, or will healthcare eventually become part of its business systems division, with a few modules like Medstory on the side?

More, as they say, will be revealed.

(Esther also talks about the limitations created by lack of robust privacy protection systems in healthcare – something else I’ve been prattling on about ad nauseum for some time now.)

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