Microsoft jumps into European health-care market

Microsoft's Amalga health-care software covers everything from handling patient care records to tracking research projects and finance department tasks

Microsoft is now offering its Amalga health-care software in Europe, the company announced at the CohnIT heath-care show on Wednesday in Berlin.

Amalga -- which represents one of Microsoft's new thrusts into other software fields -- has many components, covering everything from handling patient care records to tracking research projects and finance department tasks.

The software is for use in the clinic, designed to draw data out of other health-care systems and software used by hospitals into a database and then present it in an intelligible way for medical professionals.

For example, Amalga can bring up a patient record, link it to an X-ray along with other clinical data stored in different systems. The goal is to give doctors a faster way to compile the information they need to treat patients and speed up hospital administration.

Microsoft said Amalga can manage more than 40TB of live data, quickly responding to queries. The software is built on Microsoft's .Net Framework and uses the company's SQL Server database.

Amalga was formerly called Azyxxi (rhymes with "Trixie"). Doctors Mark Smith and Craig Feied designed the system along with software engineer Fidrik Iskandar.

Microsoft bought Azyxxi in 2006 from Datomics Licensing and General Datomics, companies founded by Azyxxi's creators. MedStar Health, a nonprofit health-care company, co-owned General Datomics.

Azyxxi was first deployed around 1996 in the emergency department of Washington Hospital Center, in Washington, D.C., one of MedStar Health's facilities.

Amalga can also be used for managing data in different accounting systems. Microsoft says Amalga is part of a new software category the company terms a "unified intelligence system."

Microsoft has a version of Amalga for emerging markets, Amalga Hospital Information System, which has features such as bed management, human resources and picture archiving for radiology. The picture archiving feature is also offered as a stand-alone system called Amalga Radiology Information System and Picture Archiving and Communication System.

Microsoft's Amalga could present some competition for incumbent European health-care software makers, wrote Tola Sargeant, public IT infrastructure analyst for Ovum.

"If it can be proven in wide-scale deployments -- and with Microsoft behind it we have no reason to suppose it won't be -- then Amalga is likely to have strong appeal for European health care providers, particularly those with a mish-mash of existing clinical and departmental systems that remain popular with clinicians," Sargeant wrote in a research note.

Amalga is being used by eight hospitals in MedStar Health's network, which covers the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas, as well as Johns Hopkins Hospital, among others.