In my role at Microsoft, I spend a lot of time focusing on clinicians, clinics and hospitals and how information technology is being used to transform health and healthcare delivery around the world. I go to a lot of industry conferences and meet with hundreds of clinic an hospital executives. In parts of the world where healthcare is more or less controlled by government, I also spend time with health ministers, public health officials and government leaders. However, this week I’m in Chicago hanging out with an entirely different crowd – one that is equally if not even more important to the future of healthcare.
This year is the 100th anniversary of workers compensation insurance. It is also a milestone anniversary year (20) for a company that works closely with employers, underwriters, insurers, and provider groups that deal with worker’s compensation claims. That company is called Paradigm, and they were kind enough to invite me to speak at their 2011 Innovation Symposium held last evening and today at the beautiful Peninsula Hotel in Chicago.
Paradigm is a catastrophic specialty networks company that ensures the highest level of care for people with catastrophic and complex injuries. The company serves as a medical hub connecting the injured person with medical experts, high quality providers and a clinical support infrastructure. Did you know that just six percent of worker’s compensation claims account for more than 50 percent of the total cost of all claims? Did you know that prescription pain medications kill more people each year than any of the illegal street drugs? Those were just a few of the facts I learned during a morning of superlative presentations by clinical and insurance industry experts. I especially enjoyed a presentation by Dr. Fernando Branco, medical director of the Rosomoff Comprehensive Pain Center in Miami. The Center offers a highly effective program for getting chronic pain patients off of narcotics. Dr. Branco said 77 percent of patients going through the pain center’s program remain completely free of narcotic pain medications one year later. I also enjoyed a presentation by Dr. Todd Kuiken, director of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Dr. Kuiken brought us up to date on some of the latest advances in bionic medicine and how state-of-the-art prostheses are being developed to improve function and quality of life for amputees. For an IT guy like me, learning more about how software and robotics are being applied in building artificial limbs that look and function a lot more like “original equipment” was the highlight of the day.
My presentation at the symposium showed how advances in ICT are contributing to higher quality, safer, lower cost, and more readily available care. This includes advances in electronic records, communication and collaboration, business and clinical analytics, tele-health, home monitoring, telemedicine, and so much more. However, we all agreed that although we have the technology to solve some of the thorniest issues in transforming health and healthcare delivery, we also have payment systems and business models that thwart many of the advances we could be making if those barriers weren’t in the way. I think the insurance industry is beginning to understand this dichotomy, and I’m hopeful they will step up to do what they can to remedy some of the perverse incentives that exist in our healthcare system today. Only then will we be be able to apply at scale some of the technologies that I know will make health and healthcare so much better for consumers, patients, providers, and everyone else who cares about good health and access to affordable care.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft