Microsoft Adds Health Care to Global E-government Platform

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Microsoft's efforts to improve health-care IT networks haven't been limited to recent activities in the U.S. The company this week extended a comprehensive e-services framework it is developing for governments around the world, with new modules for helping them build better IT networks for social services.

At Microsoft's Local and Regional Government Solutions Forum forum in Bilbao, Spain, this week, Microsoft unveiled an addition to its existing Citizens Service Platform to help governments build a range of applications and Internet-based services to connect with citizens about the social services they receive, including health care and wellness services, said Bruce Greenstein, managing director, health and social services for Microsoft's World Wide Health unit.

Greenstein said that Microsoft research has found that the proportion of the total budget that county councils spend on social care is between 25 percent and 32 percent. County councils are the equivalent of state governments in most of Europe, he said.

"For us, it was obvious that we need to be able to offer tools and guidance and best practices for local governments to optimize their experiences in transacting business internally and externally to citizens that either are interested to get information, interested in having an assessment done or to keep track about how their care is being laid out," Greenstein said.

Microsoft's Citizens Services Platform, which the company unveiled last year and is a work in progress, is meant eventually to be a framework into which various applications from third parties can be plugged in to provide specific functionality to handle every aspect of how a government deals with its citizens.

For the new social-care aspect of the platform, Microsoft teamed up with several partners, including Cerrus International, a U.K. organization that offers a range of applications targeted at health, from case-management to human-resources software.

Stewart Maxwell, chief executive at Cerrus, said when Microsoft realizes its vision for the CSP, it will be "something governments around the world will get tremendous benefits from." The platform provides an opportunity for partners with specialty in providing vertical software, as it "does need Microsoft partners to provide all the systems to fit into the CSP framework."

Cerrus builds its applications on Microsoft software like SQL Server and .NET, Maxwell said. Microsoft also has been providing in-country support for Cerrus to provide targeted government health-care IT systems around the world.

Cerrus recently completed the first phase of a large project in China to deal with that country's aging population situation, Maxwell said. The country is building entire cities for elderly citizens where they can live and receive the proper health care aged people need.

"When you have 400 million people by 2050 reaching age of 65 and above, building a 40-bed nursing home just isn't enough," he said.

Cerrus is building and managing the IT system for one 6,000-person city for aged persons, called Sun City. Sun City also is the name of a community comprised mainly of elderly people near Phoenix, Arizona, in the U.S.

Microsoft has been ramping up its efforts to improve health care IT networks stateside through its HealthVault online repository and e-health data-aggregation platform Almaga. The company recently unveiled a new version of Amalga that includes bi-directional integration with HealthVault, and introduced with the Mayo Clinic the most widely available to date e-health service leveraging HealthVault.

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