This week I’m writing from the World Congress on Information Technology in Amsterdam. Yesterday I delivered a keynote address for the eHealth track of this multidisciplinary conference that has drawn more than 2000 delegates from across Europe and around the world. The conference theme is “challenges of change”.
The exhibit hall at WCIT2010 defines the meaning of eye candy. Conference organizers and sponsors went all out in the designs and displays I discovered in the various pavilions. If you want to see some of the coolest technologies, this is the place. From electric automobiles, to robotic manufacturing, to 3D telemedicine; it’s all here.
One of the highlights of the conference for me was a private meeting with Mr. R Madelin. Mr. Madelin is director general of information, society and media for the European Commission. Although he is not focused solely on health and healthcare, it was very evident that Mr. Madelin understands the potential and also the challenges of reforming health delivery and medical services with technology and patients at the center. He agreed that most of the challenges we face have very little to do with technology these days. We can solve for that. The greatest barriers are cultural, behavioral, and regulatory. I shared my thoughts about some of the shining examples that I see in the US like Kaiser and Group Health, organizations that have staked their future on the improvements in quality, safety, and efficiency that eHealth can bring.
I suspect within a few more years, many organizations will be asking that now familiar question, “Who moved my cheese?”. It is very clear to me that the health and healthcare industries are about to go through a transformation unlike any that we have seen for perhaps the last 50 years. Part of this transformation will be driven by our need to scale up healthcare services while lowering costs. Perhaps more dramatic will be the shift from one size fits all medicine to something far more personalized as a result of our ability to make use of data from the human genome. That was driven home as I sat through a joint presentation by scientists from the Netherlands and New York Presbyterian Hospital who are collaborating along with dozens of other prestigious organizations to create bio banks that will shorten the cycles of clinical research and bring new discoveries to market much faster.
It will be interesting to see if in these challenging times the European community can come together to solve their mutual concerns including the universal need to drive greater efficiencies and levels of service in health and healthcare while at the same time controlling the spiraling costs of care. Surely the focus needs to shift toward prevention as much as cure, and to ways to prevent and manage the so called “lifestyle diseases” that are epidemic in the developed world. We all have a stake in this. We all own a piece of the cheese.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft