Last week before an audience of 4500 attendees at the Medical Group Management Association national annual conference in New Orleans, I shared a personal story about growing up in a hard-working, middle class family. I explained how my Dad, a city fireman and World War II veteran, loved everything American. He believed that everything made in America was simply the best. I talked about how Dad loved cars and how, although he always bought Buicks, he really wanted to one day own a new Cadillac. In his mind a Cadillac was simply the very best car in the world. Sadly, he never bought himself a new Cadillac because he just couldn’t bring himself to spend the extra money. He was always quite frugal.
In 1985 when I was beginning to enjoy some professional success, I decided to buy my wife a brand new Cadillac. Looking back at my decision, I’m sure it was influenced by my Dad and his dream of owning “the best car in America”. But as I explained previously here on HealthBlog, that Cadillac I bought my wife in 1985 was the worst, most unreliable car we’ve ever owned. In that same blog post, “American Medicine and General Motors—more in common than you might think” I made some analogies between the high cost and low quality of that 1985 Cadillac and the high cost, and by some measures low quality, of our American healthcare system compared to health systems in other developed countries. I also revealed how far behind America is in the use of information technology in healthcare compared to other developed countries in the world. Will it take a “bankruptcy” as it did for General Moors to turn things around? Is American medicine too big to fail? Remember, that’s what they said about AIG and General Motors.
This week, I traveled to San Jose to address a gathering of senior sales and marketing executives from a global, well known and respected life sciences company. They produce and sell a wide array of consumer healthcare goods, medical supplies, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals. They had gathered in San Jose to visit with leading technology companies and to exchange ideas with us on the role of technology in society and how it can be leveraged to improve and scale the delivery of health content, medical services and healthcare in the years ahead. We shared information about what Microsoft is doing in health and healthcare around the world, as well as some of the innovations going on in the consumer space right now, in particular the new Windows Phone 7 platform, Xbox and Xbox Kinect, and of course, HealthVault. In the discussions following, I must say I was impressed by some of the ideas that came forward on how the fabric of these consumer products and the technologies behind them, along with the cloud, can be combined to provide new and really innovative services, including health and healthcare information and services. It was very clear that, working together, we can drive greater value into our systems of care, lowering costs and improving quality. In fact, it is not technology that holds us back. It is the new business models that are needed to reward and sustain the uses of such technology in healthcare. Being the eternal optimist, I know these changes are coming and it’s none too soon for citizens and patients everywhere.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft