Yesterday in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote luncheon address at the 11th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference. I say pleasure because the audience consisted of the very folks needed to drive and innovate new web services and care delivery models in healthcare. These were marketing VPs, senior healthcare strategists, physician executives, CEO's, IT executives and web developers.
Sadly, I must say that we still have a long way to go in realizing the kind of Internet revolution in healthcare that Bill Gates evangelized in his October 5th, 2007, Wall Street Journal editorial. I've been following how healthcare is using the Net for perhaps a dozen years or more. During my keynotes I frequently show a slide of consumer expectations for on-line healthcare services based on their experience with other industries like banking, retail, travel, and even plumbers. In fact, I also show a photo that was sent to me not long ago by a colleague who needed his toilet fixed. He said the plumber arrived at his home in a GPS enabled van and carried a Tablet PC into his home. He used the PC to order parts, document his work and present an electronic invoice. My colleague who sent me the picture asked, "Why isn't healthcare more like this?" My flippant answer was, "Probably because these days that plumber is making more money than your family physician!"
In any event, consumers today do have high expectations of service industries and healthcare is no exception. Consumers want;
- On-line appointment scheduling
- Web messaging with physician and support staff
- Access to lab and radiology reports
- On-line prescription refills
- Reminders and "information therapy"
- Access to personal medical records
- Outcomes and disease management tools
For the past ten years I've been asking audiences "how many of you can say that your hospital or clinic is providing everything on that list?". A decade ago, virtually no one would raise their hand. Today in any audience of 500 to 1000 a few hands will go in the air, although during my talk in Las Vegas not a single hand was raised. Maybe they were just shy, or maybe none of the organizations represented truly have hit this level of on-line services. I was a bit surprised since this was after all, a healthcare Internet conference. I pointed out that there are many organizations in America large and small that can check off everything on that list, and even more in other countries where e-health services are being driven by progressive governments and industry executives.
My despair at the lack of progress was lifted as the day went on. I met lots of energetic people with great ideas and enthusiasm who pledged they would go home and make it happen for their hospital or clinic. We shall see. In the meantime as previously stated, I am seeing a lot of progress and many promising initiatives from our customers and partners around the globe. I've said it before and I'll say it again; it is a great time to be in healthcare IT.
Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation