The front desk clerk at the Hyatt Regency in Adelaide, Southern Australia, informed me that I would have a view of the river from my room. She also cautioned that the water level was a little low; not from drought but because of an electrical failure that had unexpectedly caused a dam to release water from the river. She said it could take some time, considering the drought, for the water level to rise again.
When I got to my room, the view wasn’t all that bad and the river wasn’t the parched gulley I had expected. You might say that the river was “half-full” just as you might say that the economy here is “half-full” at least in comparison to what is going on in the USA. Like the USA, the Australian government is pumping lots of money into the economy right now to stimulate things, and healthcare is high on their radar. Just yesterday, a plan was announced to federalize the country’s primary care services and put much greater emphasis on preventive care services. This would include building primary care mega-clinics and increasing the scope of services offered by nurse practitioners. The stimulus package also promises electronic medical records and personal health records for all Australians within five years. The government has a slogan for these new initiatives to improve healthcare in Australia. The slogan is “no more excuses”!
I’m in Australia meeting with government and public health officials, customers an partners to talk about the use of unified communications technologies (messaging, e-mail, voice over IP, video conferencing and web conferencing) in health. After seeing the capabilities of the newest generation of unified communications tools and the value they bring to caregiver collaboration, most of the people attending our sessions can’t wait to get started. They also appreciate seeing firsthand how the technology actually works and learning about the case studies and customer evidence we’ve gathered from around the world.
This afternoon, I traveled to the outskirts of Adelaide to visit a 300 bed community hospital; The Repatriation Hospital and Clinics at Daw Park. I went there to learn about some clinical “dashboard” software being developed by IT staff and clinicians at the hospital with one of our Microsoft partners. Scott Walsh, manager of clinical informatics; Alan Neil, director of 3D Telemedicine; and Dr. Chris Farmer reviewed for me a solution they call GiGa. Using Microsoft’s commodity SQL Server, the .Net Framework, Microsoft Office, and a host of data feeds and reports from public health, government and other hospitals, the team has put together a pretty impressive solution to monitor key performance indicators, quality indicators, patient safety statistics, utilization trends, and a lot of other information that is proving to be worth its weight in gold. They were able to demonstrate that some hospitals are running at just 25 percent efficiency compared to the most efficient centers. They were able to show precisely how MRSA infections were costing the hospital more than a million dollars above the reimbursement they were receiving from the government and what they needed to do to reduce the incidence of those infections.
Keep in mind this isn’t your typical urban, mega-center hospital with hundreds of IT staff. In fact, the building dates back to World War I when the hospital was built to care for Veterans returning from the war. Over the years it expanded to care for the family members of veterans, and today it cares for the community at large. Government would be wise to support and promote home grown solutions like GiGa that are helping to make healthcare data and best practices more transparent. After all, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure”. I also think it ties in nicely with the broader campaign of “no more excuses”.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft Corporation