Microsoft on Monday announced plans to acquire California-based Medstory, a start-up company that has developed a specialized online search engine to provide health and medical information to consumers, the New York Times reports.
The search engine uses artificial intelligence techniques to provide health information from medical journals, government documents and Web sites (Lohr, New York Times, 2/27). Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the acquisition at the Health Information Management and Systems Society conference in New Orleans. The companies did not disclose the terms of the acquisition (Bishop, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/27).
According to Peter Neupert, vice president for health strategy at Microsoft, the acquisition of Medstory represents a first step in a broader effort by the company to "improve the consumer experience in health care." Microsoft last year purchased Azyxxi, a clinical health care information technology software system with the ability to retrieve and display different forms of patient information from many sources -- such as scanned documents, EKGs, X-rays, MRI scans, angiograms and ultrasound images. Neupert said that Microsoft hopes to link personal information -- such as age, sex, family history and prescription drug regimen --to online searches for health information. "Health search could be way more relevant," Neupert said, adding, "You don't need to see thousands of results. What you want to know is, what does this mean to me, personally?" Esther Dyson, an industry analyst, said that the search engine developed by Medstory is "not so much a search engine, but an ontology engine," with the ability to identify concepts in health, rather than only keywords and Web site links. According to the Times, the acquisition of Medstory "comes at a time of increased investment in online health ventures, rising traffic at consumer health sites on the Web and profits at the most popular sites" (New York Times, 2/27). In addition to the acquisition, Microsoft on Monday released the Connected Health Framework, technical blueprints and software code that physicians and other health care providers can use to update their older computer programs for forms automation and interoperability with different systems (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/27).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.