Friday, October 05, 2007

Drivers to Healthcare

Today, I learned, Microsoft introduced their version of a health maintenance web sites called Healthvault, a snazzy, little feel-good webpage that really makes me want to enter my health information online.

But I found myself asking, why on earth would Microsoft want to foray into the health care arena? I mean, for what Grand Purpose does Microsoft need or want my health information? Are they really concerned about my health? Gosh, I never knew their little Redmonian nerds really cared that much. I mean, the thought of them facilitating my care in my older years when I can no longer see the screen on my computer or feel the keyboard on my desk felt so, so…well, confusing. I mean aren’t they really all about computer software?

Well, yes.

Here’s the news flash. Microsoft could care less about your health. What Microsoft cares most about are software and “drivers.”

You see, software is the little computer instructions that tell a computer how to behave. Telling a bunch of zero’s and one’s how to move about in just the right fashion to do anything constructive is complicated business. It is the software instructions that tell the computer what to do. Software, once designed, is usually pretty nifty, but it’s maintenance, with upgrades and all, can be quite a drag. I mean, look at all those security patches that Microsoft has to upload to their computers all the time to “patch” new holes in the virus protection to their operating systems. Do you think those are fun to code? But people need those instructions to make their computer work, so they sometimes pay for new software. And so there is economic demand.

But the other interest by Microsoft are drivers: drivers that permit a device to interact with computers, drivers that permit nice advertising revenue, and drivers for growth.

Software drivers are the little bits of software code that allow a gadget or gizmo to interact with a computer, especially a computer that uses the Microsoft operating system. And there are tons of little devices out there that would love to interact with your home computer: pulse rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, temperature monitors, glucose monitors, etc. But those are the little guys. The Big Guys are pacemakers, and defibrillators, and event recorders, and the stuff that doctors put inside patients. The guys that make these devices need someone to manage all of the information, and changes to operating systems, and software enhancements that come with the internet and computer terrain – and Microsoft is well-suited to manage this information and the software needs for plenty of other Fortune-500 health care companies. Just look to Medtronic – struggling to supply their Carelink software across Microsoft and Apple's MAC platforms and having to devote more and more manpower to managing this data and the upgrades to technology that are inherent to our computer world. You see housing data on their server causes one nasty problem: if they want to upgrade their software, they have to figure out a way to distribute updates to all of their data entry sites. It is this interaction that Microsoft can help these Big Guys.

And if they can squeeze in a little advertising revenue to boot to compete against Google?

Well, all the better.


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