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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

The Foundation for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare

The Foundation for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare

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I always enjoy reading Health Care's Most Wired On-Line electronic magazine. This week's edition especially captured my attention with pieces written by notable CIO, John Glaser of Partners Healthcare, and Joe Weber of software and consulting service provider Narratek. Mr. Glaser writes a thoughtful piece on the importance of applications as the foundation for evolutionary future improvements in healthcare organizations. Mr. Weber takes issue with the idea that achieving interoperability for electronic records is any kind of Holy Grail for improving care quality.

I find myself agreeing with both points of view, but perhaps for slightly different reasons than the authors intended. I've always maintained that we can't achieve breakthrough innovations in care delivery and operational excellence without a solid, contemporary IT foundation on which to build. It pains me to visit hospitals and clinics running application software and hardware that is 7 to 10 years old; a lifetime in terms of IT advancement. It also hurts when I see business and clinical processes still trapped on paper that could be solved so easily with contemporary, commodity software applications if only that "foundation" was in place. While I'm sure my definition of foundation might be more Microsoft-centric than Mr. Glaser's, I'm confident we’d agree on the rich opportunities to improve healthcare through the appropriate use of some pretty basic tools for enterprise search, knowledge management, business intelligence, documentation, communication, collaboration, messaging, mobility and transactional web services.

As a physician and a patient, I also agree with Mr. Weber that we can make a lot of improvement in the delivery of medical services and the quality of care without interoperable health records. I'd be satisfied just knowing that the care I provide or receive is evidence-based and meets rigorous and proven standards for best practices. I'd be thrilled if my doctor's office was as efficient in providing alerts, reminders and communication as the place where I get my car serviced. Yeah, it would be nice if my medical record in Seattle was available to doctors treating me in New York, but that wouldn't be first on my list of needed fixes for our healthcare system.

Of course, to ultimately get where we all want to go we'll need contemporary IT and the ability to seamlessly share, analyze, and be informed by the massive amount of information generated in healthcare. The pace of scientific breakthroughs and clinical trails for the prevention and treatment of disease will be markedly improved when that happens. In the meantime, healthcare executives should stay focused on what really matters in any service industry; striving for operational excellence and treating your customers as you yourself would want to be treated.

Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director
Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences
  • Used in to write conclusion for final public policy paper

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