Let’s face it. International business travel is grueling. Between jet lag, irregular meals, and meetings that often run from dawn well into the evening, it's not all that romantic. Business travel on Valentine’s Day is even less so. That’s why last evening as I rolled into my Sydney hotel well past 9 PM, I was thoroughly surprised to open the curtains in my room and discover I had a prime view to a fireworks extravaganza in Darling Harbor. It was truly spectacular. As it concluded, I reflected on my many meetings the past few days with Microsoft customers, partners, clinical leaders, healthcare executives, and politicians in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. I couldn’t help but think of fireworks as a perfectly fitting theme for the many sparks of innovation that are coming from Australia.

The need for innovation in health and healthcare delivery has never been greater. That point was driven home during my hour-long meeting with Dr. Chris Davis (right), assistant health minister of Queensland. Dr. Davis was gracious enough to step away from that day’s sessions in Parliament (left) totalk with me about the current state of healthcare in Queensland. As is the case in many states and nations around the world, government leaders are alarmed at the escalating cost of care that is often outpacing inflation. Add growing numbers of elderly persons, the increasing incidence of chronic disease in our societies, and huge budget deficits to the mix, and there is very good reason for alarm. We simply must find more efficient ways to deliver needed information and health services to our citizens. We talked about the role of technology, and particularly ways to rapidly implement cost effective, often cloud-based solutions that will improve care team communication and collaboration, improve access to clinical information at the point of care, and provide greater insight to our clinical and administrative operations.

Unlike extraordinarily expensive hospital information systems and electronic medical record solutions, many of these technologies are quite affordable and relatively easy to implement and use. I was in fact delighted to meet with one of our partners in Australia, CharmHealth. They are introducing new clinical and administrative solutions built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Unlike other systems that may take many months or years to get operational, CharmHealth says they can implement systems in a matter of weeks. I was also pleased to learn more about the good work of Generation-e, a Microsoft partner using our Lync unified communication solution to help clinicians deliver tele-health services to the aged and chronically ill in their own homes. And this morning during meetings at the New South Wales Agency for Clinical Innovation, we discussed a promising tele-stroke program that is not only saving money, but quite literally saving lives.

Sometimes advances in care delivery seem almost glacial in their pace. However, on each of my trips to Australia over the last few years, I’m seeing real progress being made. To the many clinicians and healthcare executives who took time out to meet with me this past week, I say congratulations on your good work and thank you. As Katy Perry might say, “You’re a firework”. Thanks also to our health industry lead in Australia, Dr. Simon Kos, for helping to organize this year’s visit, and to our talented team of industry experts who are providing such good service to customers and partners throughout the region.

Tomorrow’s travel will take me to New Zealand for updates in both Auckland and Wellington on some of the ways our customers and partners are utilizing new technologies and solutions to improve health and healthcare delivery. Look for more on that in the days ahead.

Bill Crounse, MD                  Senior Director, Worldwide Health                 Microsoft