Microsoft healthcare group eyes new opportunities follow

May 17, 2000

Force 3 bolsters Philips’ PACS businessThe Department of Defense has long been at the forefront of medical informatics, systems integration, and the development and adoption of new technologies that enhance the delivery of healthcare. The

Force 3 bolsters Philips’ PACS business

The Department of Defense has long been at the forefront of medical informatics, systems integration, and the development and adoption of new technologies that enhance the delivery of healthcare. The companies that help develop and implement these technologies for military hospitals all over the world have also been innovators in this field.

In some cases, however, even the DOD’s massive healthcare complex represents a limited market. Take network infrastructures. Over the past nine years, Force 3, a networking and systems integrator in Crofton, MD, has upgraded and reengineered the data communications infrastructures at most U.S. military medical facilities—more than 150 worldwide. This gives the company a broad portfolio of networking and systems integration experience, but has also left it in need of some new customers.

“We have all of these engineers with all this expertise and skill sets, so it makes sense to take it to the thousands of other (nonmilitary) hospitals whose networks are even more antiquated than those of the military,” said Rocky Cintron, president and CEO of Force 3, which saw revenue of $85 million on products and services last year, 30% in the military/medical market.

Drawing on established relationships with several major strategic partners, including Cisco, Compaq, Nortel, Lucent, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft, and establishing some key alliances with medical imaging and information systems vendors, Force 3 has begun offering its network assessment and reengineering capabilities to the commercial marketplace. The company expects to do about $25 million in medical business this year, with $5 million to $6 million coming from the commercial sector.

As part of this effort, the company has partnered with Philips Medical Systems to provide integration services and related networking and security solutions to Philips’ PACS customers.

“We view our relationship with Philips as key to our strategic move into the commercial marketplace,” said Tom Hines, chief technology officer for Force 3. “Our experience in the delivery of quality local- and wide-area networking solutions to the DOD has prepared us well for the commercial healthcare sector.”

Since joining forces with Philips, Force 3 has already done network validation surveys for eight of Philips’ hospital customers and is about to sign an agreement for another four in the New York area. Philips has even branded Force 3’s assessment services, now called NetVal, and made it part of their standard PACS offering. If a customer wants a new PACS network or a complete network upgrade, Philips and Force 3 now offer this capability through Philips’ new NetDesign service.

“Philips has told us they expect to do a hospital a week this year, and they want us to do all the evaluations,” Cintron said.

Philips also intends to have Force 3 handle all its miniPACS and modality cluster evaluations, he added, and is looking to secure a similar relationship with a clinical applications vendor within the next six months.

Force 3 also sees security as a profitable market niche in commercial healthcare. The company is partnering with Internosis, a developer of Microsoft-based network security applications, and other vendors on new technologies and applications that ensure secure transport of medical records and images across a public/private infrastructure and facilitate HIPAA compliance. Force 3 and Internosis showcased their network-based approaches to data assurance at the recent HIMSS meeting and are working on a Web-based application for HIPAA compliance.

Force 3 is not alone in its expansion from military into commercial healthcare. Through its Healthcare Practice Group, Universal Systems (USI) has been instrumental in providing the software for the DOD’s Composite Healthcare System, which includes piloting an electronic medical record across several military hospitals. USI recently won a $60.6 million contract to continue as the prime contractor and systems integrator for this project and will deploy the system at pilot sites in Hawaii, North Carolina, and Virginia later this year.

Like Force 3, USI is now leveraging established strategic partnerships to move some of its technology and applications into the hands of nonmilitary healthcare providers. The Chantilly, VA-based company has particular expertise in Internet integration and has a Web-based architecture called e.Power that facilitates the integration of various private/public networks and systems with workflow, document, and records management applications.

USI launched its first commercial product, Clinician Assistant, at the HIMSS meeting last month. Clinician Assistant is a Web-based clinical documentation and decision-support tool with an intelligent coding engine that is designed to generate encounter notes for EMRs, export HCFA E&M billing codes, and integrate with practice management systems. Clinician Assistant is a template-based system that operates as a Windows NT front end to an EMR and sits on top of a facility’s clinical data repository. It incorporates Medcin, a comprehensive database of clinical terminology developed by Medicomp Systems, another Chantilly-based company. There is also a wireless version with voice recognition capabilities that operates on a personal digital assistant to enable data capture at the point of care.

“Combining a point-and-click interface with intelligent decision support to create an e-process framework, Clinician Assistant dramatically reduced errors associated with healthcare claims,” said Larry Albert, senior vice president of USI’s Healthcare Practice Group.

USI is doing some direct sales of Clinician Assistant but initially wants to partner with large application service providers, practice management service providers, and other dot.coms, according Albert. The company is negotiating several such relationships and has some ASP contracts pending.