As healthcare systems and individual practices rush to adopt electronic medical records, health information technology companies have experienced unprecedented growth – Eclipsys’ net income grew by 140% to nearly $100 million in 2008. With billions of dollars allocated to electronic health records in the 2009 stimulus package, the health information technology sector is likely to experience even more growth as these funds are released and the economy turns around. But even though these electronic medical record systems proliferate, one key problem remains – all of these different systems don’t talk to each other. That’s where Google Health comes in. Through a series of innovative partnerships with pharmacies, health systems (including the Cleveland Clinic), and others, Google Health offers a central repository that gives patients control of their health records. Now, it looks like Microsoft may be joining the party in a big way by reaching out to the Hospital Corporation of America – the largest healthcare facility operator in the world.

NBC’s local Nashville affiliate WBIR is reporting that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer met with local leaders in healthcare, among others, on Wednesday, January 20th. According to a Nashville Healthcare Council press release, Ballmer was joined on a lunch panel by executives from Allscripts, Dell Perot Systems, and Emdeon. Perhaps even more important than what was actually said was who was there. Allscripts is a health information technology company with an EMR generally directed to small and mid-sized practices. They are also one of the few health IT companies with a mobile platform fully integrated into their EMR.

It’s also worth noting that Nashville is home to the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the largest operator of healthcare facilities in the world. With hundreds of hospitals and outpatient surgery centers, its hard to miss Microsoft’s opportunity here for something like the Google-Cleveland Clinic partnership. Microsoft’s Health Vault could establish a national presence nearly overnight via a partnership with HCA. They have already established a $1.25 million program supporting mid-Tennessee community programs, suggesting they are already exploring partnership opportunities. And with Allscripts, Microsoft has the opportunity to develop a market that giants like Epic and Cerner may be missing – the small and mid-sized private practices, for whom the most popular EMR systems are just too expensive. Looking forward to the release of next generation of Windows Mobile and rumors that this release will involve a number of highly customized platforms, there is clearly an opportunity for Microsoft with a group like Allscripts.

All the pieces are here, it will be interesting to see what Microsoft does with them.