Tech titans' battle turns to mHealth

From the mHealthNews archive
By Erin McCann

There have been many wars among technology stalwarts. Apple, IBM and Microsoft have fought operating system battles, skirmishes on the database front and, of course, the continuing browser wars, to name just a few. Now the technology giants are arming themselves for combat in the mobile health realm.

The latest: Microsoft has lined up two partners to combine mHealth technologies and begin testing them immediately. 

Team Redmond first aligned with wireless provider TracFone to focus on underserved and high-risk patient populations; the two companies then teamed up with Miami-based Health Choice Network to launch a pilot program aimed at examining how access to mobile technology affects patient disease-management and outcomes.

Microsoft’s triptych comes on the heels of similar tactics from Apple, which first joined with EHR maker Epic and the Mayo Clinic to work on the forthcoming HealthKit, and then followed that with a surprise announcement under which it will work with IBM to develop industry-specific Mobile First for iOS platforms and mHealth apps and to resell iPads and iPhones.

Microsoft’s pilot
Through the pilot project, HCN will provide smartphones to some 100 patients enrolled in the Care Management Medical Home Center diabetes pilot, complete with short message service abilities and Microsoft's HIPAA-compliant e-mail and messaging communications. Patients will have the ability to access Microsoft's HealthVault, the company's Web-based platform that allows patients to store their protected health information and stay on top of medication adherence.

The platform, officials said, will also allow patients to receive appointment reminders and keep track of glucose levels. 

[Q&A: How IBM and Apple expect hospitals to use their mobile platform.]

With nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes — and racking up $245 billion in costs each year — many stakeholders have been looking for innovative ways to help those individuals better keep tabs on their condition. With its new mobile health project, Microsoft is the latest company to offer a diabetes management platform.

This is not the only healthcare-related project Microsoft has launched, officials noted.

"Microsoft is in the process of developing additional pilot projects, but (this) first one is scheduled to launch by the end of the year,” said Steve Aylward, general manager of solutions and strategy for U.S. Health and Life Sciences at Microsoft, in an e-mailed statement.

Rivals wrangling
Apple, for its part, has given precious little detail about what HealthKit will ultimately look like, though many are expecting a data play, in which HealthKit is essentially an information hub connecting a range of apps and devices with which patients generate data.