Power triumvirate Microsoft, IBM and pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer are set to form a joint company, as yet unnamed, to market software and services to doctors and other health professionals.

Lips are zipped as to the size of the investment and the proportion of individual contributions – but the trio are specific about the dual aims of the new business: to free up doctors’ time by the elimination of costly administration; and the automation of routine paperwork such as prescribing.

Explains Pfizer’s senior vice president of finance, planning and business development, Peter Brandt: "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."

Based on its stated aims, the new venture competes with health technology specialist WebMD, whose progress in the highly conservative medical sector has been frustratingly slow. US doctors are not famed as early adopters of technology and many of the practice systems currently in place are incompatible with others.

However, Brandt is undeterred. The new venture, he believes, is “a natural extension” of the extant relationship between doctors and the eight thousand-strong Pfizer sales force.

Smaller medical group practices, rather than large clinics or research institutions, are the main targets of the new venture. But Pfizer sales teams will not directly vend the new software; instead they will hype the system and refer prospects to a separate salesforce.

The system is expected to be made available to medical practitioners by subscription and will harness the latest internet and wireless technologies. Its facilities will include the issue of prescriptions, checking of laboratory orders, the running of group calendars and office administration – even emailcommunication with patients.

The venture will not start from the ground up: acquisition of an existing company to provide a base product is expected within the next month. From this point, the project will roll-out with an expanded product offering targeted for the end of Q3 2001.

WebMD declined to comment on the new venture.

News source: Wall Street Journal