Family Health Guy

In which Sean talks about HealthVault and other cool ideas in Personal Health

Tryptophan-induced thoughts for Thanksgiving

Tryptophan-induced thoughts for Thanksgiving

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"Careful how you sell her - she really believes this stuff."

This is how I was prepped to interview one of our first candidates for Health Solutions, back in the early days of 2006. "She" has gone on to be one of the biggest contributors to HealthVault's success, and I am curious to know if she'll see herself in this story. It's also kind of funny to know that people feel a need to "prep" me to be sensitive ... ok, shades of aspergers maybe, but jeez!

Anyway, the reason I remembered this just now is that it's the day after Thanksgiving, it's grey and rainy outside but warm next to the new fireplace, my family is getting the house set up for the holiday season* and I am feeling pretty lucky to be where I am. And after the health and security of that family, the thing I'm most thankful for is the opportunity to be a part of what we're doing with HealthVault and Amalga.

Like any job - there is no end to the stupid things that go on here. People get their feelings hurt, we don't always make the sales or deals we want to, big company bureaucracy gets insane, schedules slip. But this "job" is different - just like the "she" that "believes this stuff" - pretty much everybody I know in the group believes it too. It is rare to be in a place where the work you do has the potential - and yes, I get that a lot of it is still just potential - to really make a difference in the quality of life for millions of people. Frankly, that makes up for a whole lot of sins.

Even better, we are doing it in a way that I believe will actually work. Our products all share one key value - get information and tools into the hands of the people who can most effectively use them, and who are motivated to use those tools to change things for the better.

With HealthVault, we are putting information into the hands of individuals, and making it easy for them to share that information not just with their caregivers and families, but with innovators that are creating  businesses delivering a whole new class of healthcare services. We are seeing an incredible groundswell of excitement, not only here in the US but internationally, as to what HealthVault can mean for taking care of people throughout their lives, rather than just when they show up at the emergency room.

With Amalga, we are helping the folks that actually deliver care get answers to questions in seconds rather than days. What antibiotics are working in our facility and which are not? How many times has this patient come in with the same complaint? Is there a pattern to all these flu cases? No other product in the market combines a comprehensive data asset with tools that empower users the way Amalga does.

Successful change in healthcare has to be aligned with the motivations and incentives that people will respond to. Individuals need options to help them protect themselves and their families - not to be passive recipients of cookie-cutter care. Providers want to deliver the kind of care that they imagined back in medical school - not to be slaves to stifling computerized data entry forms or seven minute visit maximums. Innovators want to get their new ideas to market - knowing that if those ideas prove valuable, they will see some economic success as a result.

We are clearly living at the beginning of some challenging times. It's encouraging to watch our new, charismatic and clearly intelligent president prepare to address our problems head on. I am so far impressed with what I've seen. But I still worry - the seductiveness of government "solutions" is going to be strong for some time. Please, let's all work together to not make the incentives any crazier than they already are.

Last year at this time we had just launched HealthVault and had just a couple of early customers for Amalga. Next year at this time - I hope we'll see both products well-established and really delivering on the promises they offer. To all of you who are trying to make things better, both within Microsoft and out in the real world, thank you. It's great to be along with you for the ride.

 

* Anyone who saw the way they decked out my office for Halloween --- you've seen nothing compared to Christmas kitsch at the Nolans. I just finished carrying nine footlocker sized bins out of the attic to get them started. The flamingo-with-Santa-hat cookie jar just made its way down the stairs. Yikes.

 

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