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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.

Connecting @ the Microsoft Connected Health Conference 2011 in Chicago

Connecting @ the Microsoft Connected Health Conference 2011 in Chicago

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I’m writing this courtesy of Gogo Internet on Alaska Airlines flight 23 from Chicago to Seattle.  Having net access at 35,000 feet is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s good to get work done, but this used to be one of the few places I could get some “me time”.  So much for progress.

Although I’m very tired after two days of presentations, meetings with customers and partners and taping a couple of new episodes for Microsoft Health Tech Today, my mood is about a high as this airplane.  Now, if I could only cure my predilection to insomnia while on the road, I’d have it made.

WP_000166There are many highlights from this year’s Connected Health Conference.  For one thing, the location in Chicago made it a lot easier for our customers and partners to attend.  For me, perhaps the biggest highlight was the opening keynote by our Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie.  About two months ago, I was invited by Craig’s strat-pro (strategy prototyping) team to work with them on developing a demo for Craig’s keynote.  I provided some scenario suggestions that I had been kicking around related to how Xbox Kinect and a soon-to-be released feature called Avatar Kinect might one day be used for group patient counseling or support sessions.  The team liked the idea, and apparently so did Craig.  Over the ensuring weeks we crafted a demo showing not only some great ideas around a more natural user interface (NUI) for clinical information, but also  how an Avatar Kinect clinically supervised counseling session for diabetes patients might work one day.  It was cool to see the whole thing come together, and from what I could tell, the audience was totally engaged.

WP_000173Following Craig’s keynote, Peter Neupert moderated a panel discussion with some luminary thought-leaders.  They were Phil Bredesen (former Governor of Tennessee), Bill Hazel (Secretary of Health for Virginia) and Mike Leavitt (former Secretary of HHS and former Governor of Utah).  Mike Leavitt said it best, “Dispassionate economics will be the disruptor of fee for service medicine.”  There was general agreement that Accountable Care Organizations are the model for the future practice (and reimbursement) of medicine.  However, there was a lot of debate on exactly what an “ACO” really is, and exactly how and how long it will take for this transition to occur.  According to the panel, one this is clear, the days of unlimited government borrowing to fund our unbridled appetite for healthcare spending are coming to a precipitous halt.

imageOf course, at Microsoft we believe that technology has an important role to play in helping people lead healthier  lives, and in helping clinicians care for their patients.  That theme was apparent in the breakout sessions I had the privilege to moderate at the conference.  My first panel examined some compelling new evidence suggesting that a supervised program of home monitoring for hypertension like the American Heart Association’s Heart360 program with Microsoft HealthVault can dramatically improve the percentage of patients who are able to maintain good control of their blood pressure. Dr. David Magid of Kaiser was able to prove that such a program not only works, but that it also saves money.  Dr. Eric Peterson of Duke University is working on a similar study at his institution to show how community-focused, home monitoring programs can work even if your institution isn’t a staff-model HMO like Kaiser. My second panel looked at new tactics for managing chronic diseases and promoting healthier lifestyles using web services, and again with an emphasis on home monitoring and patient engagement.  My final panel on day 2 of the conference focused on the role of applications for mobile devices for monitoring health status and connecting people to their health information.  I especially liked a new application being launched by Medco that will help people keep track of their medications and make better choices about the prescription and over-the-counter medicines they take.

WP_000164The conference reception Wednesday evening was also a big hit.  Here, our guests had an opportunity to learn more about Microsoft solutions in health and healthcare including Microsoft Amalga and HealthVault. Dozens of partners were also present showing new devices, applications, and services for the industry.  There was even a booth where would-be surgeons could navigate around medical images without breaking scrub using Xbox Kinect.

As I mentioned, we also taped two new programs for our on-line series Microsoft Health Tech Today at the conference.  One program will show how St. Joseph’s Health System is using Microsoft Amalga to streamline operations, coordinate care, and engage patients.  The other program discusses Identity Access Management solutions and how Sharp Healthcare is using these tools to give clinicians rapid access to the information and services they need while making it easier for IT to manage it all.  Those and other new Health Tech Today programs will start being released in mid-May.

OK.  Enough already.  I haven’t completely given up on “me time”.  A movie or perhaps a glass of wine?

Bill Crounse, MD               Senior Director, Worldwide Health             Microsoft

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