Canadian Industry Leaders Ponder Opportunities and Innovation in Healthcare

Is there too much innovation in healthcare, or not enough?  Is there enough innovation but a failure to adopt it?  Are we making progress in transforming health and healthcare delivery, or have we hit a wall?

WP_000048These were among the topics being debated at the Microsoft Canada Executive Health Summit held yesterday in Toronto.  Our invited guests included healthcare CIOs, CEOs, clinicians and other executives who joined us for a full day of presentations and panel discussions at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  The day opened with a brief introduction from Eric Gales, President of Microsoft Canada, who shared his own very personal story about dealing with a serious illness in the family.  It was then my honor to provide the opening keynote for this prestigious event exploring global healthcare trends, best practices, and cool new technologies from around the world.  My colleague Peter Neupert, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Health Solutions Group then presented our vision for connected health and what it means for Canada.  The morning concluded with an innovation panel discussion facilitated by Peter.  Panel participants were  Dr. Jennifer Zelmer, Senior VP, Clinical Adoption & Innovation, Canada Health Infoway; Bill Pascal, Chief Technology Officer, Canadian Medical Association, and Rick Skinner, CIO, Cancer Care Ontario.  There was general consensus around the panel that we have plenty of innovation in healthcare, but not enough innovation being driven into practice.  There was also agreement that most of our WP_000047issues are not about a lack of technology, but rather the regulatory framework, political will, and aligned incentives to drive change in the industry.

During the rest of the day, our guests heard presentations from Jim Forbes, CTO, University Health Network and Dave Pattenden, Healthcare Industry Director for Microsoft Canada, on opportunities to realize substantial savings by moving IT platforms and solutions to the cloud.  That discussion was continued by Steve Heck, CIO, Microsoft Canada, as he shared the savings our company has already experienced with cloud computing and improved IT governance and management of global operations. John Weigelt, National Technology Officer for Microsoft Canada, demonstrated how Microsoft’s deep investments in R&D are paving the way to a new era of computing and new business strategies and opportunities in Canada. Ken Sutcliffe, CTO of Cancer Care Ontario, discussed opportunities to improve caregiver communication and collaboration with unified communications while also saving a significant amount of money.  One of my favorite presentations came from Dr. Michelle Magee who shared information on how personal health records, connected devices, and home monitoring were improving the lives and health of patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions at Medstar Health in Washington, D.C.  The audience was also treated to a presentation by one of President Obama’s social medial gurus, Rahaf Harfouse.  Ms. Harfouse explored how social media is impacting the political process and many industries including healthcare.  It is clear that social media will play in increasingly important role in health.

imageFollowing the day-long event, our guests received a personal tour of a magnificent exhibit at the Art Gallery ofWP_000049 Ontario; Maharaja, The Splendor of India’s Royal Court.  The exhibit runs through April 3rd and is free to guests who are 25 years old and younger.  The paintings, jewelry, household items and costumes on display are well worth exploring not to mention the royal modes of transportation. 

Although the weather outside my room on the 20th floor of the Metropolitan Hotel is gloomy this morning, I am heartened by the good work going on in Canada.  The question is whether Canada (and the United States) can transform health and healthcare practices in time to avert a fiscal meltdown.  Our panelists revealed that some provinces in Canada are already spending 50 percent of their budgets on healthcare with estimates that this could climb to 70 percent or more in coming years.  Taxes will go up.  Services will go down.  People are bound to be unhappy—that is, unless we can buckle down, fix our broken processes, payment systems, and incentives and deliver better health through applied innovation in the prevention of chronic disease and the delivery of health information and medical services.  And yes, technology is important in that equation.

Bill Crounse, MD                 Senior Director, Worldwide Health                                     Microsoft

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