This week I'm traveling in the UK. My first stop was in Glasgow, Scotland, to address IT executives from NHS Scotland who were holding a meeting at Golden Jubilee Hospital. The hospital, originally built by Arab business interests as a private hospital, was purchased by NHS Scotland and now serves as a cardiac center of excellence. The facility is contemporary, clean and has every possible amenity for patients and visitors including a very nice hotel.
My second stop was in Reading, England, to provide the opening keynote for Microsoft's NHS CIO Summit. The NHS is Microsoft's single largest customer. They have standardized on our platform, information worker solutions, and unified communications stack for 850,000 NHS employees. The agreement makes these tools and technologies available to all NHS staff both at work and at home. Our relationship with the NHS is also bolstered by a joint, multi-year initiative to create a common user interface for clinical and administrative systems used by NHS employees. As you might imagine, having a common user interface to clinical systems across the entire NHS landscape, in every facility, will dramatically improve patient safety, staff productivity, and caregiver satisfaction.
In my keynote address, I pointed out that the most innovative and progressive uses of information technology in American healthcare tend to be found in organizations that function as both providers and payers of care such as Kaiser, Group Health Cooperative, or UPMC. In such organizations, there's an incentive to provision care in the most medically appropriate, expedient and cost effective manner with a focus on prevention. This means if a member's need for information or medical services can be addressed just as safely and effectively with an instant message, e-mail, phone call, tele-consultation, or e-visit as could be accomplished by means of a face-to-face traditional office visit, that's exactly what will be done. No waiting for an appointment, taking time off work, driving somewhere, waiting in an exam room, etc. just for a simple bit of information or reassurance from your doctor. Typically, these organizations are also leading the way in making electronic medical record systems securely accessible to patients who are interested in maintaining a personal health record. They are also doing some of the best work in preventive health services, home monitoring, and chronic disease management.
The NHS is celebrating its 60 birthday. I pointed out to NHS leaders in both Scotland and England, that like their American managed cared counterparts, they are ideally positioned to lead the world in provisioning health information, medical care and services, but for every citizen in their country, not just to members of a particular hospital or health plan. Essentially, the NHS is a system that looks very much like a Group Health, Kaiser or UPMC, only very much larger. The NHS is also a system that now has all the tools and technologies needed to provision information, care, and services using exactly the most appropriate modality; whether in a hospital, clinic, physician's office, patient's home, or "virtually" on the Internet. The only limiting factors are perhaps organizational inertia and the challenges associated with changing and modernizing well ingrained cultures and behaviors of clinicians and clinical practice.
I believe the NHS is not only locked and loaded for the next 60 years, but it is in excellent position to lead the world by example in the application and use of information technology to improve the health of all citizens.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation