It was a cloud-free, warm and very pleasant day yesterday in Wellington, New Zealand. After three long days of continuous meetings with Microsoft customers, partners, public health officials, clinicians, healthcare executives and press in both Auckland and Wellington, I finally found a little time in the late afternoon to take a walk. From my hotel on the edge of downtown, I ventured toward the bay. As I walked along a wharf filled with little shops, restaurants and lots of people, I noted some long-boats just off shore. They appeared to be piloted by high school or college students. Each boat had twenty rowers in two columns of ten people with a coxswain in the rear calling out the pace. I had glanced down for just a few seconds when I heard the horrendous crash of wood on wood. I looked up and realized what had just happened. One of the long boats had T-boned the other. It appeared that a rower in the boat that had taken the brunt of the crash had lost his oar in the water and may have been slightly injured. Some observers on shore said the crash was an accident. Others thought it might actually have been intentional. In either case, it was quite a sight.
Later that evening as I thought about those two boats crashing into each other, an analogy came to my mind regarding the intersection of healthcare and ICT. Whether driven purely by design or somewhat by accident, the worlds of health and ICT are coming together. Many people I met with in New Zealand said that intersection is being driven as much by the “consumerizaton” of IT as it is by public health planners, hospitals and clinics. What they meant is that we have entered a time when healthcare professionals as consumers are embracing ICT, and expecting a similar experience at work as they enjoy at home with the devices, applications, and services they use there. Cloud computing was another area of strong interest. Healthcare organizations want to streamline ICT. While there is still plenty of discussion about data sovereignty, privacy and security especially related to personally identifiable health information, there is no doubt that organizations have an appetite to move as much as they can to the cloud.
In New Zealand, the centralized health authority and its district health boards have signed an agreement that gives them access to the very latest technologies and solutions from Microsoft. With that agreement in place and once the solutions are implemented, a significant part of the healthcare delivery and administration ecosystem in New Zealand will be able to enjoy the benefits of new, more useful and appealing devices, improved communication and collaboration tools for care teams and patients, business and clinical intelligence applications that will provide greater insight to information, and a host of other things that will help clinicians, hospitals and clinics improve the coordination of care in their communities.
The pieces are all falling into place. It won’t happen overnight, but there is momentum building that will better serve all of New Zealand. ICT and Healthcare are at an intersection. Yes, there are still things that slow the momentum. But I have never been more hopeful that countries like New Zealand will actually achieve the triple aim of higher quality care, better access to care and lower cost of care by using the technology at hand. The potential in New Zealand, where they are also blessed with a strong developer community and a small number of very good and very savvy industry solution vendors, has never been stronger. I can’t wait to see the progress they’ll make by the next time I visit.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft