Last evening I returned to Seattle from a three-day trip to Switzerland. I was there to provide the opening keynote for the ehealthcare.ch conference in Nottwil and also to meet with Microsoft customers and partners attending the event.
Perhaps the highlight of my trip was sharing the keynote stage with Dr. Bertrand Piccard. Unless you are Swiss, you may not immediately recognize the name. In Switzerland, Dr. Piccard is a national hero. His grandfather and father were noted balloonists and undersea explorers. Bertrand is best known for piloting the Brietling Orbiter 3 in a 1999 race to travel around the world in a balloon. His latest quest is to circumnavigate the world in a custom-built, solar powered plane.
Dr. Bertrand gave his keynote immediately following mine. To thank him, conference organizers presented him with a boxed Swiss Army Knife. They apologized that they didn't have one for me because they knew it would be a problem for airport security. Dr. Bertrand and I had a nice visit both before and after our presentations. He was amused that conference organizers allowed me to give my keynote in English (really my only option) but asked him to speak German. Although his native language is French, he gives most of his talks in English. He said he had to "think too hard to be spontaneous" while speaking German.
As I met with healthcare providers during my trip to Switzerland, I was struck by the notion that the Swiss Army Knife was perhaps a good analogy or symbol for the approach the Swiss are taking in healthcare IT. They had little interest in the monolithic, inflexible solutions being offered by most vendors. Instead, they favored open standard, home-grown or best of breed departmental solutions orchestrated by means of a web services architecture. They also favored using lower-cost, commodity software solutions wherever possible. In other words, they pretty much reflected my own thinking and the values we evangelize at Microsoft. It is perhaps then no surprise that they are doing some truly innovate things with our software in healthcare, and that they are interested in doing a whole lot more. This is all good news for my team of healthcare solution specialists and account managers working out of our Zurich office under the leadership of our industry manager there, Philipp Negele. My thanks to Philipp and his team for organizing my short visit and introducing me to so many enthusiastic users of Microsoft technology.
Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation.