I have posted a number of previous notes about medical tourism and specifically about Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, one of the most successful players in this rapidly emerging industry. Now comes the news in the Wall Street Journal that Microsoft has purchased the Thai software firm that supplied Bumrungrad with some of the clinical and back-office software that enabled it to achieve some of its current success (see: Microsoft to Buy Health Software). Below is an excerpt from the story (boldface emphasis mine):
Microsoft Corp. is moving deeper into the global health-care market by buying the assets of a Thai company that provides a package of clinical and back-office software. Privately held Global Care Solutions Thailand...developed its software in collaboration with Bumrungrad Hospital ...in Bangkok, which gets patients from all over the world....Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief strategy and research officer, said the U.S. company will sell Global Care Solutions' software to hospitals world-wide, which should help the hospitals cut costs and the time needed to process patients....Bumrungrad treats more than 1.2 million patients a year from 190 countries. Partly because of its ability to manage large numbers of visitors, Bumrungrad has become a leading global outsourcer of health care, known in the industry as "medical tourism." Global Care Solutions' software enables the hospital to swiftly manage billing and medical records in a variety of languages, cutting down waiting times to see a doctor to an average of 17 minutes, Bumrungrad officials said. "The GCS software has been a significant differentiating element for us," said Curt Schroeder, Bumrungrad's group chief executive.
I have the following comments about this story:
- Reading between the lines, I suspect that this initiative by Microsoft is as much a "medical tourism" play as an attempt to produce generic "back-office" software for the U.S. and European healthcare markets. Bumrungrad has iconic significance in the medical tourism field so the synergy between it and Microsoft could potentially work magic. My own belief is that an increasing share of U.S. healthcare expenditures will be directed overseas and that some of our most innovative health systems will develop collaborative relationships with high-end hospitals such as Bumrungrad.
- At least for me, the Thai software industry is an unknown so it's interesting that a Thai company was able to catch the attention of Microsoft, which is a highly selective purchaser of companies. For the record, a Google search for Thai and software yielded 19,800,000 hits.
- The recent purchases by Microsoft of Azyxxi and the development of Health Vault, a personal health record (PHR), created quite a stir in both the press and in the HIT community. My own opinion is that the PHR has been greatly over-hyped and that we are a long way from any clear understanding of the value and popularity of this type of product. However, I am much more sanguine about the future of "back-office" software that enables hospitals to process patients and their records more efficiently, particularly for the booming medical tourism industry. Moreover, There is little chance for competition from Google in this space.
- I suspect that Microsoft understands hospital back-office software, in general, is not a sexy product category. Think, however, of the appeal of having a Microsoft product in place that could link a U.S. medical tourism company and Bumrungrad to expedite case referrals abroad. I published a previous note (see: The "Blues" of South Carolina Endorse Medical Tourism) about the South Caroline Blue Cross & Blue Shield jumping into this industry. I have been bullish about medical tourism for some time but having Microsoft as a player can only serve to accelerate its growth.