I'm writing this from Philadelphia where this evening I'll be presenting at the 2007 International Freddie Awards. The awards ceremony honors the very best in health and medical media (television, film and video) from around the globe. It is always a star-studded event and a chance to see many of my colleagues from the medical broadcasting and health reporting community. From here, I travel to Las Vegas to keynote on Monday at the 11th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference at the Venetian Hotel.
After attending the Freddies last year I wrote a piece on digital media and how personal computing has changed the landscape of television and radio. Today, anyone can create and distribute programming thanks to the personal PC and the Internet. This has been transformational in making very targeted programs available to people who need them; programs that before the Internet couldn't have found an audience. Now physicians, health educators and others can produce programming about even relatively rare diseases and conditions and, thanks to the Internet, reach the people most in need of that information.
Last week in a short article I wrote for Most-Wired On-Line Magazine about the "Push to the Personal Health Record", I concluded the piece by quoting Bill Gates in his October 5th op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal where he called for a healthcare Internet revolution. Bill said, "Technology is not a cure-all for the issues that plague the health care system. But it can be a powerful catalyst for change, here in the U.S. and in countries around the globe where access to medical professionals is limited and where better availability of health care information could help improve the lives of millions of people.” I couldn't agree more, and not just because I work for Microsoft.
People have high expectations today from companies and organizations that earn their business. In meeting the needs of their customers, most industries have transitioned from a purely bricks and mortar environment to a model that leverages physical facilities with the power of the Internet. Healthcare has lagged other industries in making this transition, yet there are so many healthcare services that could be provisioned more efficiently, more conveniently, and less expensively using on-line technologies. From appointment scheduling, prescription renewals, and access to medical records to physician-patient messaging, e-mail and "virtual visits"; the time has come for healthcare to step up. The time has also come for government and health insurers to recognize the value of on-line healthcare services and appropriately reimburse providers for making themselves available to patients on line.
Progressive healthcare organizations have already caught the Internet wave. Perhaps it is no surprise that most of them are organizations that serve as both provider and payor of healthcare services like Group Health in Seattle, Kaiser or UPMC. Their business model is perfectly aligned with taking care of patients' needs using exactly the most appropriate level of service be it physical or virtual. I'm also seeing rapid growth of on-line services in countries where healthcare is centrally funded by government. Especially in the developed world, governments will be challenged to meet the healthcare needs of a growing elderly population. On-line technologies, personalized tele-medicine, tele-monitoring, and tele-home care will be at the forefront of ways to leverage scarce healthcare resources and personnel.
I look forward to attending the Healthcare Internet Conference for a check-point on how far we've come in this country, and how far we've yet to go in realizing the healthcare Internet revolution.
Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation