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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.

Ideas for sustainable health bloom in the Arizona desert

Ideas for sustainable health bloom in the Arizona desert

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WP_20140417_16_16_44_ProIn light of rapidly aging populations, health systems worldwide are being confronted with a dramatic increase in lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. As a result, health systems must shift their current focus from expensive and ineffective late- stage disease response toward more outcome-based and cost-effective prevention and early detection strategies.

What could be a more perfect description for a new initiative from the Center for Sustainable Health. The past two days, I’ve been in Tempe, Arizona, to participate in an invitation-only conference to launch Project Honeybee. The mission is to expand and accelerate efforts to sustain health through the prevention and early detection of disease. The focus in on clinical application of wearable biosensors. Why Honeybee? Because bees are nature’s best collectors and communicators of data. They not only find and communicate data, but they act on it.

This is certainly in keeping with the Center for Sustainable Health’s mission which is to sustain health through the prevention and early detection of disease to improve health outcomes at lower costs. Originating as the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, Sustainable Health began as a three-way collaboration among the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and the Biodesign Institute located on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. The Center is led by its Chief Scientist, Dr. Lee Hartwell, and Director, Dr. Michael Birt. Over the years it has been my pleasure to work with Drs. Hartwell and Birt at the Pacific Health Summit. After “retiring” as the CEO of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Dr. Hartwell moved to the Phoenix area. It appears that you cant’ keep a great scientific mind still, so naturally Dr. Hartwell is always knee deep in the next big thing. That turns out to be, among other things, Project Honeybee.

WP_20140417_09_10_34_ProWP_20140416_18_07_27_ProAt a  reception Wednesday evening and an all day meeting on Thursday at the beautiful Desert Botanical Garden in Tempe, we pondered how the availability of wearable devices, inexpensive biosensors, cloud analytics, and a healthcare system that is moving from volume to value will collide to produce amazing new possibilities to monitor health and well-being, predict and preempt disease. Conference attendees included leaders from business, venture capital, engineering, social sciences, nursing, clinical medicine, and education. Most of the clinical attendees were from Mayo, Banner Health and Arizona State University. It was a lively discussion that in the end, zeroed in on the amazing potential for consumer based, open and interoperable biosensor technologies that will one day help transform health and healthcare delivery.

 The timing of Project Honeybee aligned well with some important announcements coming from my own company this week. At an industry event in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, announced that the company is launching new platforms, technologies, and services to address the era of ambient intelligence.  According to Mr. Nadella, "The era of ambient intelligence has begun, and we are delivering a platform that allows companies of any size to create a data culture and ensure insights to reach every individual in every organization." Microsoft's data platform includes new Internet of Things capabilities and provides businesses and individuals with the building blocks they need to connect their data, refine and analyze it, and deliver insights to people who can take action. Note the last part of that sentence—to take action. And note once more what the Center for Sustainable Health said about Honeybees--They not only find and communicate data, but they act on it.

Iamge1If you want to dive a little deeper on the Internet of Things and what it means to health and healthcare, I would encourage you to visit this new online resource. Also take a look at this video about Great River Medical Center and how the organization changed the trajectory of its operations in real time by upgrading its existing things, and adding some new ones along the way. We like to call this the “Internet of Your Things”.

As for the Forum for Sustainable Health and the future of Project Honeybee, one need look no further than the organizing leaders and the depth of knowledge and experience conference participants. I expect some notable buzz in the not too distant future.

Bill Crounse, MD    Senior Director, Worldwide Health         Microsoft

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