HealthBlog

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.

Where Wireless Meets Healthcare and Life Sciences

Where Wireless Meets Healthcare and Life Sciences

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Today, I find myself in beautiful San Diego.  For a guy who loves everything having to do with ships and water (and really nice weather), San Diego is always a treat. I am here for the Wireless-Life Science 8th Annual Convergence Summit being held at the Omni Hotel.

For a change, I am not delivering a conference keynote. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I went to a tech conference and didn’t give a presentation. The reason I flew here from Seattle last evening was to do a video interview this morning with the Dr. Oz ShareCare organization. ShareCare brings together some of the worlds leading health authorities to speak on their area of expertise in a web series they call Health Makers. It was absolutely an honor to be invited to join this illustrious group. The interview will turn up on the ShareCare web site in coming weeks. During my interview with correspondent Richard Sergay I explored a wide variety of topics around the general theme of Health ICT and my observations about the progress being made here in America and around the world.

WP_20130530_001WP_20130530_002If I look a little tired in the interview there’s a good reason why. When I checked into the hotel last evening, I was presented with a beautiful corner room on the 19th floor.  One gigantic view window looks out on San Diego bay.  The other looks at Padres Stadium, and oh-oh, a rail yard below. I should know from experiences I’ve had at one of my favorite hotels in Tokyo that being next to a rail yard is never a good thing. Sure enough, I got practically no sleep last night due to the constant clanging, banging, and other thunderous noises coming from 19 stories below. I even resorted to the ear plugs I often use to protect my hearing from jet noise. But that presented another problem—worrying about missing my wakeup alarm and blowing off the Health Makers interview team. I’m sharing all this just in case anybody notices the bags under my eyes when the interview gets posted.  No, I wasn’t out partying all night and yes, I really do need more than a couple of hours of sleep.

Let me share two other things that will be far more interesting than my battle with railroads and lack of sleep. Late yesterday afternoon I got to attend a keynote address by one of my heroes, Dean Kamen, CEO and Inventor at DEKA Research and Development. Most people probably associate Dean Kamen with one of his inventions that was supposed to forever change the way people move about—the Segway Scooter. But that venture is almost insignificant compared to all the other things this tech genius has invented. Kamen is also an inventor pioneer in the field of peritoneal dialysis. You may have also seen his work in future generation bionic limbs and exoskeletons. But there is so much more to the man than that. He told us about his recent work to develop modular solutions to provide clean drinking water, electric power, and communications technology to some of the poorest and most underserved communities on earth. By partnering with global organizations like Coca-Cola, Qualcomm, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, Mr. Kamen’s inventions are having a real impact on better health around the world.

WP_20130529_002At the conference reception last evening, I also had a chance to catch up with Dr. Yulun Chang, Chairman and CEO of InTouch Health.  My familiarity with InTouch goes back to one of Bill Gates’ CEO Summits in the early 2000’s. I was asked to play a doctor on the InTouch robot by driving it around the auditorium and up to the stage where I was interviewed by our then Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie. With only a few minutes of training I was able to master the joystick and other controls and safely navigate the robot around the show floor without running over even a single toe of one of the visiting luminaries who were in the audience. Of course since then the InTouch robot has gone through a couple generations of change due in part to the acquisition by iRobot. Today’s InTouch robot not only looks better, it has amazing new capabilities to assist medical professionals as they make “virtual rounds” in some of todays’ most advanced hospitals. And the joystick has now been replaced by an iPad. Naturally Dr. Wang and I had a great conversation about moving those controls to a Windows 8 device to take advantage of some of the communication, collaboration, security, data protection and other attributes our platform would enable.

During my stay at WLSA 2013, I have also met with dozens of companies and entrepreneurs who are developing next generation solutions to some of the thorniest problems in chronic disease management, remote monitoring, consumer health, clinical workflow, analytics, and so much more. All this makes me hopeful about the kinds of technology that will help us reach a goal of higher quality health and healthcare, better access to information and services, and yes, more efficient, lower cost healthcare around the globe.

Bill Crounse, MD                      Senior Director, Worldwide Health                 Microsoft

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