Microsoft updates e-health data-aggregation software

New version of Almaga aims to improve flow of information between doctors and patients

Microsoft on Monday will unveil a new version of its software for aggregating health records that makes it easier for patients and doctors to share information electronically.

The new release, Almaga Unified Intelligent System 2009, offers bi-directional integration with Microsoft's HealthVault, an online repository where people can store and manage their health and wellness information, said Steve Shihadeh, a vice president in the Microsoft Health Solutions Group.

In addition to linking Almaga to HealthVault, Microsoft also is adding a Web interface to the system so health-care practitioners who have the right to access information from Almaga can do so through a Web portal, he said. The company also has added new features to the system, one of which that allows images such as X-rays and MRIs to be stored.

Managing health-care records and information is a huge pain point for the industry. The health-care information system in the U.S. is difficult for both patients and doctors to navigate.

Patient health records for the most part remain stored in disparate systems and there are still huge paper trails of records that health-care providers must keep to comply with regulations that govern the industry.

Microsoft's update to Almaga comes just as the U.S. government has approved an economic stimulus package with US$19 billion in funds available for health-care professionals to develop better IT systems in the health-care industry.

"One of the criteria to qualify for that money is to provide for the meaningful use of electronic medical records and interoperability of data," Shihadeh said. "We believe that tools like Amalga and HealthVault clearly demonstrate that ability."

Microsoft, along with other tech giants like Google and IBM, has been at the forefront of helping to improve health-care IT systems. Microsoft executives have even testified before the U.S. Senate to advise the government on the issue.

"The hardest problem we're trying to solve is to help people navigate this connected system in a modern seamless way to get better health care," Shihadeh said. "That's what we see as most important."

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