Microsoft and GE Healthcare announced a joint venture yesterday (as-yet unnamed), trumpeted as bringing together the best of both companies’ offerings in the health care provider market. (More from the NY Times.) Late in the day, I spoke with Brandon Savage, Chief Medical Officer at GE Healthcare, and Nate McLemore, General Manager of Microsoft Health Solutions Group. They had a great deal to say about the companies’ shared vision of the use of platform technology to enable care teams to deliver the right decision at the right time, noting that their core products complement each other rather than overlap.
The centerpiece of the collaboration will be an amalgamation (so to speak) of the two companies’ strengths around Amalga (the Microsoft product) and Qualibria (the GE product). Brandon and Nate described the challenges facing these products thus: Qualibria needs to be able to pull in data from multiple sources better (Microsoft can help), and Amalga needs to be able to share best practices across sites better (GE can help).
Put another way (to quote John Moore at Chilmark Research), Amalga is “more a toolset than a product.” McLemore acknowledged that provider organizations need to make a substantial investment in customization in order to realize benefits from using Amalga, and noted that one of the keys to the synergy with GE is that GE can build the applications needed to unlock the value from Amalga for customers who can’t or won’t do it themselves. While there have been some providers that have walked away from Amalga, there are some notable success stories (e.g. New York Presbyterian’s dramatic reduction in DVT thanks to information extracted and interventions facilitated by Amalga’s analytical tools). (We should note that there a number of products that carry or have carried the Amalga brand; one of them, Amalga HIS, was sold to Orion Health in a deal that should close soon.)
Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group (HSG), which has straddled the fence with consumer-facing (HealthVault) and corporate-facing (Amalga), is increasingly moving to the corporate side of the fence. Not that surprising considering that the consumer market continues to struggle (Google Health is in virtual mothball state, consumer adoption of HealthVault is nothing to write home about) and that HSG has now moved out of R&D and is now under the business solutions group, Dynamics. At the end of the day, HSG head Peter Neupert has to show that he can deliver the goods and Amalga is the horse he’s betting on (Note: Sentillion is there as well, but think of Sentillion as the gate-keeper to accessing Amalga).
Yet Amalga has gone through its share of birthing pains with some in the industry beginning to question its value.
Amalga has suffered from two significant problems, both inter-related. The first is that Amalga is an extremely powerful set of data aggregation and analytical tools, but it is more of a toolset then a product and this leads to long implementation time-frames and subsequently an inability to extract value quickly (ROI for Amalga is measured in years). For example, in 2009 Golden Living signed on to adopt Amalga and HealthVault. At last week’s Connected Health Conference, (CHC) Golden Living presented some remarkable results of how they are transforming long-term care through the use of Amalga. But in their presentation, Golden Living also stated that they knew full well when signing on to Amalga that this was going to be a multi-year effort and their implementation team has been given 5 years to put Amalga in place. Five years to fully implement a software solution is a very long-time and similar to the installs of the largest EHR systems. Unfortunately, many early Amalga customers did not have the foresight of Golden Living. In recent conversations with Microsoft, Chilmark has been told that significant resources are now being dedicated to improving time to value for Amalga. We’ll have to wait and see as the CHC sessions we attended on Amalga and HealthVault Community Connect, did not make this readily apparent.Continue reading…
Continuing my series of interviews from my trip to Microsoft the week before last (before their conference) I met with Michael Raymer. Mike is a long time health IT veteran who’s been at Microsoft for about six months and is in charge of the Amalga product line. Amalga includes a standard HIT clinical product aimed mostly at the Asian market, and an enterprise integration product aimed at large hospital organizations in the US. What that means exactly, and how Amalga fits into the EMR ecosystem, Mike explains in this interview…
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