I am writing this from Tromso, Norway, where later today I will deliver a keynote address at the Tromso Telemedicine and eHealth Conference. Preceding me on stage is Dr. Clayton Christensen of Innovator’s Dilemma fame. I believe my message on healthcare delivery innovation and the power of commodity IT will reverberate well with what Dr. Christensen has to say.
Tromso is a town of about 60,000 residents in Norway’s north. It is so far north, on the same latitude as Barrow, Alaska, that the sun never sets during the summer months and likewise never rises during the winter. Tromso is also home to the University of North Norway, the northernmost university in the world. The university was founded in the early 1970s with a medical school to help secure Norway’s northern regions with a sustainable population of physicians. The university has since expanded to offer degrees in fishing management and oil and gas engineering; degrees perfectly aligned to the region’s natural resources. This might be the last place you would expect to find an internationally renowned research center for telemedicine and e-health but that is exactly what is here. Tromso is home to the internationally recognized Norwegian Center for Telemedicine, chaired by Dr. Steinar Pedersen.
I had an opportunity to tour the telemedicine center with Dr. Pedersen and university hospital with Dr. Jan Stormer. I have long known that Europe’s Nordic countries lead the rest of the world in the use of electronic medical records. That is not to say that I didn’t find any traces of paper in the university hospital. There is certainly room for even greater automation and improvement in clinical workflow, but I must also say that the hospital is a modern marvel of clinical IT. I had a nice conversation with a young orthopedic physician, Dr. Petter Gjessing (pictured), who lauded the hospital’s clinical systems but as a young man who has grown up with computers, clearly yearns for even better solutions that are more contemporary, powerful and user-friendly.
The research, services and programs offered in by the Norwegian Center for elemedicine are no less remarkable. While many countries are only now exploring home health monitoring, ehealth applications for the management of chronic disease, virtual clinical visits on the web, and cell phones and cellular networks as a platform for tele-health services, the telemedicine center in Tromso has been breaking new ground for more than a dozen years. I was especially impressed by a tele-dialysis program developed by the center that is moving dialysis from hospital and clinic into the home.
This evening we head to Trondheim and later to Oslo where on Wednesday we will hlep open the European Center for Health Innovation. Stay tuned for more.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation