HIMSS 08 is now behind us. Thanks to my many friends, business colleagues and HealthBlog readers who stopped by the Microsoft booth to say "hello". Thanks also to all of you who stood around to hear me kick off our Microsoft Theater session "Improving Health Around the World" on Monday, February 25th. I think all of us were blown away by how many people frequented our booth during HIMSS's four-day run.
I was fortunate to get a room at the Peabody Hotel which is directly across the street from the Orlando Orange Country Convention Center. The location was extremely convenient and strategic for the many customer meetings and receptions I attended during HIMSS. If you've ever stayed at the Peabody, then you know about the Mallard ducks that spend their day swimming around a small fountain in the hotel's main lobby. Watching those ducks reminded me that we too are all swimming in a pool called Health IT, trying to get along and provide the healthcare industry with the interoperability and solutions it needs to transform clinical practice and care delivery.
Anyone who's ever been to HIMSS can't help but be astonished by the number of exhibitors there. The big vendors may have their multi-million dollar booths with football field-sized video screens , but it is often when I visit the booths of smaller companies that I get the best vision for the future of medical practice and patient care.
I loved seeing the array of carts, wall mounting brackets, flat screens, office furniture and other solutions that are now available to help ergonomically integrate computing in clinical environments. But it was in a small booth in a very far corner of the exhibit hall that I think I may have seen the best glimpse of the future. There, a small engineering company located in Bothell, Washington, called Advances in Technology was demonstrating the latest ideas in tele-conferencing gear.
Using large screens, simulated 3-D, and clever tracking software, conferencing participants are made to feel that the "virtual" person on the screen is looking at, and talking directly to, each person in the room. The presenter's head and eyes even follow you as you move about in front of the screen.
Might we some day enter "virtual' clinics where the world's best doctors pop up in 3-D and "examine" us with remote sensors and PCR-enabled labs on a chip? Might there be entire hospitals and clinics staffed by robots and machines under the control and guidance of skilled physicians and surgeons in far off lands? Might there be powerful software that aggregates the world's medical literature in the cloud and processes trillions of diagnostic inquires in real time to provide clinicians with decision support from the largest computer on earth?
It will take some time for all this to happen, perhaps even another generation or two, but the trends and technology are definitely falling into place if you just step back for a moment and take time to "see" those smaller exhibits at HIMSS. Yes, we are all swimming in the same pond, and what a pond it is destined to become!
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation