Ballmer expresses hope for healthcare IT, announces $1.25 million in grants

By Mike Miliard
10:36 AM

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer thinks healthcare information technology has a bright future. But he also recognizes that the sector’s innovation is seriously lagging behind other technologies.

Speaking at a panel discussion sponsored by the Nashville Health Care Council last Wednesday, Ballmer said he’s "optimistic" about healthcare IT’s future. Conditions are ripe, he said, for a flowering of growth that’s been years in the making.

“The money is coming. The national debate has been engaged. And now is the time where our industry may be able to step up with some enabling factors and make an even bigger difference,” he said, according to the Nashville Business Journal.

Microsoft has made healthcare a focus of its investments in recent years, especially with platforms such as Amalga and HealthVault. But Ballmer expressed frustration that more medical professionals haven’t embraced new technological opportunities as fully as they might. A lack of knowledge of what sorts of innovations are available, combined with a lack of resources and infrastructure for smaller providers to implement comprehensive new systems, has led to slow adoption of healthcare IT, he said.

"Why is this industry 10 years behind? Because ... buying and selling is confused, the target market doesn’t have capacity for IT, and that makes it a tough market to jump into," he said.

That said, Ballmer sees the sector finally coming into its own.

"It's so under-automated, so large and so rapidly growing it kind of deserves the best of everybody's innovation," he said.

To that end, Microsoft, along with the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), announced new "Innovation through Technology" grants – in which the computing giant will donate $1 million in software and the HCA will give $250,000 in cash to Tennessee community agencies that focus on, among other areas, primary health.

"Microsoft is committed to partnering with Hospital Corporation of America in order to help local non-profits realize their full potential," Ballmer said in a press release. "Microsoft has a long-standing relationship with the Nashville community, and we are pleased to offer access to technology as a means to provide better care to local residents."