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The Borg Lives in Healthcare

by John Moore | June 12, 2009

borgIn Star Trek, the Next Generation, the virtually insurmountable evil force in the Universe is the Borg, whose famous line to all who resist is:

Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

To some extent, that is the impression I walk away with from my attendance at the Microsoft Connected Health Conference.  That indeed, Microsoft and its Health Solutions Group (HSG) has indeed been assimilated by the healthcare sector.

Now this is not necessarily a bad thing for Microsoft or the broader market but it does signal some important changes within the organization and more broadly confirms the strategy implied in recent announcements.  Primary among them is Microsoft HSG’s migration from an early consumer-centric strategy to an enterprise strategy.  Yes, HSG will continue to stand behind the consumer’s right to their health data and the consumer’s right to share that data with whom the consumer deems appropriate, but no longer is Microsoft interested in drawing the consumer to HealthVault, rather, Microsoft will go to market directly targeting large enterprises, currently providers, ideally selling them a combination package of Amalga UIS and HealthVault as in the case of the recent New York Presbyterian announcement.

This makes a whole lot of sense for a few reasons:

First, there is a compelling business model and money to be made selling this solution suite to large provider networks and on the international level, countries with a national eHealth infrastructure (e.g., Australia or Finland where EMR adoption is over 90%).  Note: Chilmark will write a separate, follow-on post addressing HealthVault in the international market.

Second, signing on providers facilitates getting data flowing through the healthcare system (data liquidity) and into consumer HealthVault accounts thereby creating value for consumers and secondary traction in the consumer market.

Third, signing on big names in the healthcare space such as Cleveland Clinic, K-P, Mayo Clinic, MedStar, NY Presbyterian and Partners Healthcare (their Connected for Health Grp) establishes credibility in the provider market and by extension may increase physician acceptance and adoption of consumer-controlled health record accounts.

But by assimilation, HSG may also become vulnerable to becoming staid and dare I say boring, which may result in not attracting the best and the brightest developers out there in the market to create new, elegant apps.

Sitting in the audience of some 600 people at this event I was struck by the average age that looked to be approaching 40yrs old.  Looking around I wondered where are all the young, hot shot developers that are really pushing the envelop with exciting, new and dynamic apps?  Where is the buzz? Where is the excitement? Where is that effusive energy of hope and change?  Unfortunately I did not see much of that here.

Making matters worse were some of the presentations I sat in on that were given by various provider partners.  In one session that discussed leveraging HealthVault’s Connection Center for biometric remote monitoring, I was struck by just how horrid the user interfaces (UIs) were that these healthcare providers developed for their patients.  Seriously, these were b*tt ugly.  Is this really representative of what HealthVault is capable of? Of course not, but one walks out of such a session just shaking their head wondering how can we move away from dated presentation constructs to new models of engagement.

From what was on display at this event, it does not look like we’ll find those new constructs blossoming forth from the existing healthcare borg.


HSG has done an amazing job in their relative short history in the healthcare sector and Peter and his team have much to be proud of.  Clearly, they will be a growing, influential force in the health and life sciences sector.

But as their presence and influence grows, it is Chilmark’s hope that HSG does not lose sight of the disruptors that will enter the healthcare sector.  As Mark Smith, head of the California Health Care Foundation stated earlier today in his keynote:

…travel agents did not push for Expedia, tellers did not push for ATMs…

Microsoft would be wise to keep that lesson front of mind and in future event(s) foster an opportunity for those disruptors to take center stage.


Couple of posts from others you may find interesting:

Will Crawford, Children’s Hospital who attended Day One.

David Harlow who spoke with Peter Neupert on conference call from event.

9 responses to “The Borg Lives in Healthcare”

  1. […] Chilmarks expresses his fear about HSG turning a blind eye to harnessing the power of disruptive forces and falling in line with the status quo. Well I think in the conference of this nature its hard to […]

  2. Hi John.

    We are not confused. We are focusing on the innovators. The ones that want to change the rules of the game and focus on value.

    Quite a few joung and super smart developers were at the conference actually. But who cares? Young or not so young anymore does it really matter?

    It’s actually us. The aging baby boomers that feel the urgency to fix the healthcare system. We will have to bring cool apps to market with and for them.

    And when it comes to HealthVault apps we need both the cool and the pragmatic. The stuff that is not pretty yet maybe, but it works. In healthcare this means lot.

    To use a 1970s Tennis analogy vs your StarTrek one.

    Microsoft is more like Bjorn Borg vs The Borg. Remeber him?

    He was not the most elegant player in the world but he won 11 Grand Slam singles titles between 1974 and 1981 (five at Wimbledon and six at the French Open).

    Same as Bjorn we will keep hitting the ball. We focus on the game. We love winning. Against all odds.

    Regards – davidev

  3. […] Article John Moore, Chilmark Research 12 June 2009 SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "The Borg Lives in Healthcare", url: "http://articles.icmcc.org/2009/06/13/the-borg-lives-in-healthcare/" }); […]

  4. It pains me to say this (as a 40-year-old, grateful to MSFT, with a usability-focused wellness business for employers) — but I agree with John here.

    This is not Demo or TechCrunch or one of the smaller innovation-magnet fairs. It houses savvy industry experts, physicians with 20 years experience, huge execs from huge companies, and a handful of newcos (of which StayHealthy kiosk was my fave — I finally got an accurate body fat reading!).

    All this power and money will set the stage for funding and money. But I think it’s good to test the irreverence meter — and it was not exactly redlining. Is it possible innovators have come and gone from health conferences because there are few buyers there? Because it’s Microsoft? Bellevue? Costs the same for everyone?

    I did get a great lead — from Angelina in catering — who promised to Limeade in front of the head of HR and benefits for the conference center!

    p.s. While I was schmoozing in Bellevue, our Lead PM was in two cool mini-conferences in the Bay Area.

  5. […] » The Borg Lives in Healthcare « Chilmark Research […]

  6. John says:

    The purpose of the post was to not give offense to you, at MSFT or any other MS folks but more of an observation that the event lacked a certain energy, a certain excitement that I have found at other developer events. Also, in those sessions I did attend, was pretty appalled by the poor UI of many a partner app. No, certainly no fault of MSFT, but what I would have liked is a few more on the edge apps.

    And in full disclosure, my own age is about 10yrs above that of average for this event.

    Glad to have met you in person and hope that lead is a fruitful one. As for the event itself, believe it was MSFT’s intent to put strong partner brands up on the stages to lend credibility to what they are doing to attract more provider partners and international GTM partners as well. After all, this is an enterprise play now.

  7. healthpilot says:

    Agreed that there is a lot of work to be done on partner app UX. Apps are not super sexy yet, this is a V1.0 wave. Some of the new ones are more intersting and engaging than others. The point is to get this new health cloud computing ecosystem off the ground.

  8. […] with Siemens to take HealthVault to Germany.  Last year’s event was also prophetic in Microsoft’s deepening intent to serve the provider market.  Based on the agenda I’ve seen for this year’s event, […]

  9. När jag says:

    When I originally said I visited the -Notify me when new comments are added – checkbox and here if a comment is added I receive six emails with the exact same comment. Will there be any way you are able to take out me from that services? Thanks!

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