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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.

Why 2014 should be a very good year for consumer & enterprise health IT

Why 2014 should be a very good year for consumer & enterprise health IT

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imageIt seems that much of the US is mired in snow and ice this week. Even here in the Pacific Northwest where winter temperatures tend to be somewhat moderate, we have had an entire week of temperatures well below freezing. There’s even a hint of snow in the forecast for later today. News reports say this week’s arctic blast has been a bonanza for plumbers and heating contractors. Frozen pipe repairs and broken furnaces are keeping certain tradesmen rolling in the dough. I suspect its going to be a very Merry Christmas for plumbers and furnace repairmen.

I find it interesting how inclement weather and natural disasters can be a horrible experience for some people, while proving to be a windfall for others. In the world of Health ICT current social, economic and government trends are proving to be quite beneficial to both the consumer and enterprise segments of the ICT business. For enterprise health industry solution vendors, the US government’s High Tech Act and meaningful use incentives have totally stimulated the market for electronic medical record solutions and hospital information systems. The government’s recently announced pushback for meeting meaningful use criteria may actually further stimulate the market by giving clinicians who’ve been sitting on the sidelines  a bit more time to take advantage of the program.

On the consumer side of things, I believe health reform is creating its own weather system of unintended consequences. Today’s Wall Street Journal points out that many consumers may be feeling sticker shock from the high deductible health insurance plans being offered as a result of the US Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). A family of four with a household income above $92,000 or so could face a yearly deductible of $12,700 before their health insurance kicks in. This is in addition to oftentimes higher health insurance premiums. Experts are suggesting this may cause some consumers to delay medical treatment or seek less expensive options for treatment. I believe this could stimulate opportunities for more innovative consumer health applications in the mobile, tele-health and telemedicine segment of the economy as consumers seek less costly alternatives for medical information and care.

By the way, this perfect storm for Health ICT isn’t just an American phenomenon. As I’ve been traveling the world and meeting with healthcare and government leaders around the globe, I’m finding that every health system is seeking ways to achieve the so-called triple aim of higher quality care, improved access to care, and lower healthcare costs. Almost everywhere, technology is viewed as having a central role in in achieving the triple aim.

imageSo while the current cold weather may be good news for plumbers and such, there will be winds blowing throughout 2014 that should make it a very good year for health and healthcare ICT and those who develop or sell ICT solutions. Happy New Year!

And before I sign off, I just couldn’t help but point you to a very positive article in today’s New York Times. It offers a rave review for one of my favorite tech devices right now, none other than Microsoft’s own Surface 2 tablet. Dr. Bill says, “Take two and call me in the morning.” Have a terrific Holiday everyone!

Bill Crounse, MD        Senior Director, Worldwide Health                Microsoft

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