Even when I’m not traveling the world myself, I’m frequently reminded of the worldwide opportunity to transform health and healthcare with information communications technology (ICT). Yesterday was a great example of insights on that topic coming from two very different parts of the world.
My day started out with a group of exchange students visiting from Lithuania. The group consisted of three young men and two young women who are medical students in that country. They are participating in a program called Medicine: Policy, Science and Technology (MPST).
MPST is a 6-month integrated learning experience featuring a 6-week medical student and cultural exchange in the USA and post trip activities with a commitment to volunteerism. The MPST program focuses on human rights, access to information, economic equity, and cultural experience.
Medical school in Lithuania begins right after high school with a six year, intensive program of study that is followed by a traditional medical residency experience. The students I met with ranged from being in their second year of study to the fourth with one student having completed her academic training and about to begin a residency program in OB-GYN.
I learned from the students (photo on right – and yes, they grow them tall in Lithuania) that hospital medical records in Lithuania are still totally on paper, although lab and imaging have entered the digital age. I think this is frustrating for young people who are digital natives in every other aspect of their lives. I provided a global perspective for the students on how information technology is transforming health and healthcare around the world, but also pointed out that even here in the United States we still have a long way to go before health information is fully digital. We discussed some of the behavioral and cultural (and economic) reasons that slow adoption of IT in healthcare, and the wide disparities that exist in how Health ICT is implemented and used from country to country. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students and probably learned as much from them as they did from me.
My second meeting of the day was with David Drane, a visiting CIO from New South Wales Health in Australia. I had met David previously during one of my many business trips to Australia. Yesterday he was visiting the Seattle area following an Alaska cruise he had taken with his sister who is based in Chicago and affiliated with Northwestern University. If ever there was a proponent for Microsoft technology in healthcare, it is David Drane. Compared to Lithuania, of course, ICT in Australia is quite advanced. None-the-less, David totally understands that once we digitize health information, the true value comes not from the digitization, but from how we use that information to measure what we do, and continuously improve clinical and business processes. He is also a strong advocate for using unified communications technologies to improve collaboration between care providers across the continuum of care. David knows very well that implementing electronic medical records is just the beginning of the journey in our effort to improve health and healthcare. As I’m so fond of saying, “Once you have digital health information, it’s what you do next that counts.”
From a meeting with medical students visiting from Lithuania to lunch with a leading healthcare CIO from Australia – it was another fairly typical day in worldwide health at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft