Microsoft sees e-health as innovation driver

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Corporations are pumping billions of euros into e-health R&D in a bid to steal a march on competitors in a sector expected to be a major driver of economic growth, Pamela Passman, corporate vice-president at Microsoft, told EurActiv in an interview.

Technology firms both large and small are betting heavily that finding ways to empower patients using electronic health records, while also using smart software to integrate computer systems across hospital departments, will be embraced by the public and private health sectors. 

Passman described e-health as "one of the most exciting businesses we're in," citing her company's Health Vault  and Amalga projects as central to innovation in the field. 

Health Vault allows personal health information to be captured and shared with doctors and could help patients with chronic illnesses to manage their own conditions, while Amalga enables different software applications in hospitals to communicate. At present, it is not uncommon for a radiography unit to work with customised software which is incompatible with the system used in operating theatres or emergency departments. 

"Health Vault is something that can be sold as part of a telecoms company's package. In the US, it's an advertising-based model – which might not work everywhere. But there are certain governments who view this as a very cost-effective way to provide a service to their citizens, so I think it's something that will be broadly available and broadly relevant to people," she said. 

Asked where the next blockbuster innovation like Google or Facebook will come from, Passman said Microsoft is backing healthcare, e-learning and energy efficiency. She also suggested Microsoft could reinvent the search engine, and rejected criticism that the scope for a revolution in Internet searches is limited. 

She said improving digital literacy is essential if citizens are to have equal access to the rapid advances foreseen in the technology sector. Intellectual property protection is also crucial in order to incentivise innovation, Passman said, noting that progress had been seen in a number a developing countries, with the exception of China. 

"China continues to be a very significant challenge with respect to enforcement of intellectual property and the use of illegal software. We've seen some great progress in Russia, great progress in Brazil, and continuing progress in India." 

"The progress those countries have made in the last few years alone have been quite significant, which makes the challenge with China all the more significant," she said. 

To read the interview in full, please click here

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