New Zealand’s Simpl Group is contributing to Microsoft’s Connected Health Framework, which aims to improve health system interoperability and data exchange.
Simpl rolled out its Health Connection Engine at a US show last month, after development was jointly funded by Microsoft and the New Zealand government in 2005. It has the potential to be world-leading technology in the lucrative health sector, its developers say.
Development was undertaken as part of Microsoft’s Collaborative Health Showcase. The engine was unveiled at the world’s largest health conference, HIMSS07 in New Orleans, as a key reference implementation of Microsoft’s Connected Health Framework.
The framework is a set of tools and technologies to facilitate interoperable systems in what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described in his keynote speech at the conference as the world’s biggest industry.
In 2005 Microsoft commissioned the New Zealand Health IT Cluster to create a demonstration vehicle that illustrated the smooth transfer of data in what is a complex ecosystem.
Simpl health sector business leader Malcolm Pollock says it is very hard for health systems to deliver the correct information for all parties.
“They are quite often behind, and tests may have to be repeated,” he says.
“We created a video demonstration that was available to Microsoft representatives. The health cluster then asked us to programme manage the project but we ended up taking it forward.
“We negotiated the funding from the Government and Microsoft — each put in $500,000 — and with vendors who wanted to participate to showcase their applications.
“We were aiming for HIMSS at San Diego in 2006. We completed the core engine, and a Microsoft executive came over at the end of 2005. He decided it was much more advanced than expected. Many people looked at it in San Diego and thought it was an inter-connectivity breakthrough.”
Microsoft bought the sole rights to the engine and issued a community licence.
Simpl then productised the technology and is in partnership with Microsoft to take it to market around the world.
Simpl decided independently to capitalise on its experience and to invest in the core technology to develop a range of functional shells around the engine.
“Some of the really tricky areas relate to deployment where there are multiple providers,” Pollock says. “It’s very complex and no one has cracked it well. So we are running pilots in Canada and New Zealand.”
Pollock is keen to see the technology deployed in New Zealand as part of the health information strategy.
“There is a major opportunity to improve health outcomes. There’s a significant opportunity also for us because we are 12 months ahead of the game,” he says.
“We may be the first New Zealand company to have created a major product for Microsoft.”