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Microsoft buys healthcare I.T. company in the United States

Microsoft Corp. has startled the healthcare IT sector with its recent purchase of a healthcare I.T. solutions company in the United States. It’s said to be the first time the industry giant has acquired an IT solutions provider in the medical sector.

In July, Microsoft announced its acquisition of Azyxxi (pronounced ah-zik-see), an integration engine designed by a team at the Washington Hospital Center, in Washington, D.C.

The system enables doctors and other healthcare professionals to quickly access the patient information stored in different computer systems – such as lab reports, drug histories and X-ray reports.

A high-level executive at the company said the corporate purchase is the first step in a new healthcare I.T. strategy at Microsoft.

Peter Neupert (pictured), Microsoft’s vice president for health strategy, told The New York Times: “You’ll find us expanding to a suite of healthcare solutions.”

Azyxxi was first implemented in Washington Hospital Center’s emergency department in 1996. Since then, it has been installed at six other hospitals that are part of the MedStar Health group, a nonprofit network in the Baltimore-Washington region.

The software is credited with helping the Washington Hospital Center achieve impressive productivity improvements. In 1995, before the system was introduced, the emergency ward handled 37,000 patients a year, waits stretched up to nine hours, and there seemed to be an urgent need for more doctors and rooms.

Currently, the emergency department handles nearly 80,000 patients a year and 70 percent of them get a diagnosis, are treated or are admitted in three hours or less. The staff has increased only 5 percent, and few rooms were added.

According to Dr. Craig F. Feied, a principal designer of the software and a physician at the hospital, the problem was mostly that patients were waiting in rooms because doctors could not quickly find the patient records, treatment history and other information they needed to treat them.

“We weren’t doctor-poor or bed-poor,” Dr. Feied says. “We were information-poor.”