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Salesforce takes on healthcare with new apps, alliances

By Christina Farr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Salesforce Inc, one of the first cloud-computing companies, is pushing into healthcare with new software and services aimed at the largest hospitals.

Salesforce has announced a strategic alliance with Amsterdam-based medical technology company Philips, which it envisions as the first of many partnerships. These companies will announce two new medical applications later in the summer, called Philips eCareCoordinator and Philips eCare Companion.

The software is designed to improve health and cut costs. The apps are intended to be used by physicians to monitor chronically ill patients between doctor visits.

Salesforce said the goal is to make it easier for hospitals to collect and analyze data from medical devices, which patients with chronic conditions often use at home.

"In the United States, care providers are facing increasing demands and decreasing reimbursement," said Michael Peachey, a senior director of solutions and product marketing at Salesforce.

"We want to improve efficiency for physicians by transmitting patient data in real time."

Peachey said the Salesforce software meets security and privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA.

In the short term, Peachey said Salesforce intends to develop additional apps with other partners to help doctors and nurses monitor patients from the comfort of their homes.

"It's an open platform," he said.

Salesforce is a pioneer in subscription fee-based cloud software, often referred to as software-as-a-service, known as SaaS. In recent years, SaaS has increasingly replaced traditional on-premise and licensed software at corporations because the model is easier to adopt, eliminating the need for major investments in servers or staff training. Paying on a monthly basis is also more palatable to some clients.

Over the past year or so, Salesforce and other cloud pioneers such as Workday have faced greater competition from startups and major players like Microsoft or Oracle, and are seeking new revenue opportunities.

In April, Salesforce unveiled a new strategy to focus its sales and marketing efforts on specific industries, including healthcare. The company tapped Vivek Kundra, the former chief information officer of the United States, to lead that effort.

Salesforce Chief Executive Officer Mark Benioff will release more details about the Philips alliance in a live webcast on Thursday.

(Reporting by Christina Farr; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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