Pfizer to Enter Joint Venture with Microsoft, IBM to Promote Health Technology
Attempting to move into the health technology fray, pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. is expected to announce today its plans to form a joint venture with Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. to sell software and services to physicians, the Wall Street Journal reports. The venture is seeking to accomplish what companies such as WebMD have been trying to do: remove the "costly administrative paperwork" that consumes physicians' time and automate clinical services such as ordering prescriptions. The Journal reports that WebMD has struggled to get results because physicians have been "slow" to use the technology in their daily practices. In addition, automating patient records has raised privacy concerns. Still, Pfizer and its partners see "great potential" for the venture. Peter Brandt, senior vice president of finance, planning and business development with Pfizer's pharmaceuticals group, said, "Technology is having, and will continue to have, an impact on health care, and, we believe, for the better. For Pfizer to have a front-row seat is strategically critical."
The venture plans to use "the latest in Internet and wireless technology," including hand-held computers, to assist physicians in writing prescriptions, checking lab tests, communicating with patients via email and running their offices. The system will likely use an "application service provider" model that will be hosted and maintained off-site. IBM will contribute computer hardware and installation services and will be responsible for making sure the system runs smoothly. For Microsoft, the venture provides a platform to "try out" some of its new server software with big businesses. To promote the system, Pfizer will employ its pharmaceutical sales representatives to "talk it up" during visits with physicians, who will be referred to the venture's sales force for more information. Physicians in small group practices will be the primary target, and it is likely that participating doctors will pay a subscription fee. Although physicians may be "wary" of software backed by a drug company, Brandt said that there are no plans to promote Pfizer products on the system. The venture does not yet have a name or a CEO, and details of how much each participating company is contributing were not released. However, the venture expects to acquire a "closely held company" over the next month and build from there (Carrns/Buckman, Wall Street Journal, 3/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.