Tech

What Healthcare Could Learn From a Technology Company

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 9.43.45 AMHealthcare is very different from most other industries. It is fragmented, conservative, highly regulated, and hierarchical. It doesn’t follow most of the usual business rules around supply and demand or consumerism. An important aspect of my role at Microsoft is helping my colleagues at the company understand the many ways that healthcare is different from other “businesses”.

Having said that, there are a lot of things that healthcare could learn from a company like Microsoft or other technology companies. When someone asks me what it’s like to work at Microsoft, I often say what someone told me when I started at the company 13 years ago. Microsoft is like a global colony of ants, working independently and yet together but always “neurally” connected by enabling technologies. At any given moment, I can be connected to any one of my 100,000 fellow workers or tens of thousands of partners with just a couple of clicks or taps on a screen. I have tools that show me who’s available, what they do, what they know, and where they are. I can engage in synchronous or asynchronous communication and collaboration activities with a single member or multiple members of my team using messaging, email, voice, video or multi-party web conferencing. We can use business analytics tools, exchange information, review documents, co-author presentations, and collaborate with our customers and partners anywhere in the world from anywhere we might be. Our business moves, and changes, at the speed of light. It is the rhythm of the industry.

I sometimes wake up in the morning and think, “If only my clinical colleagues could avail themselves of similar tools and technologies how different could healthcare be?” I’ve been using information communications technologies in my daily work for so long that I almost take for granted that this is the way work is done. But I also know that in the real world of healthcare the journey is still quite different. That hit home again last week when I asked my mother’s family doctor for a copy of a report on an imaging study he had ordered. It took five phone calls to make something happen and my only choice was to receive the report via fax machine. Fax machine, really?

In my heart I know it is not totally as bleak as it seems sometimes. I could cite numerous examples of hospitals, health systems and clinics around the world that are using our latest technologies to improve health and healthcare delivery. I am well aware of the forces in retail health, specialty and concierge medicine, travel health, tele-health, mobile apps, wearable devices, sensors, remote monitoring, population health and health reform that are disrupting, and will continue to disrupt business as usual in the industry. That disruption can’t happen soon enough, although making significant changes to an industry as large and complicated as healthcare doesn’t happen overnight.

While we wait, I just want clinicians, managers, healthcare executives, and others who work in the healthcare industry to know that there are some readily available technologies that, even today, can significantly improve the way clinicians do their work and healthcare is delivered.

 

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Bill CrounseSteve O'Bjohnallan.Paige Hawin Recent comment authors
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Bill Crounse
Guest

Thanks everyone for weighing in on this post originally published on my HealthBlog (http://blogs.msdn.com/healthblog) some time ago.I beg to differ with those who think FAX is a secure way to exchange a sensitive document. Get the phone number wrong and your document could land anywhere. Even if the number is correct, who knows who might be looking at the document on the other end of the line. Also, for those who expressed concerns about on-line security especially related to contemporary cloud-based solutions, please read my colleague’s post here http://t.co/hPM4OZTwc0 .

Steve O'
Guest
Steve O'

It is amazing. The very society that has hand-crafted THIS particular healthcare system takes no responsibility for it, externalizing it and blaming it on a foreign cabal. It is the VERY SAME society that has seen the computer revolution. Given our infantile tendency to label the “good guys” and the “bad guys” and fight the “bad guys,” is our current course of “compassionate obliteration” of hte current healthcare system really that sensible? We should, as a society, take responsibility for WHY the healthcare system is so fragmented – it has not happened in Yemen, nor crafted by wily terrorists, but… Read more »

Bjohn
Guest

I agree that Healthcare is a very different industry from the most of other industries and if healthcare could learn from technology company for it will be beneficial for good health.
Nowadays, it is seen that many health industries are using such technologies for making better health, and there are certain examples you can find out for this.

Paige Hawin
Guest

Fax machine?! It certainly sounds from what you say that the healthcare industry could do with a little “modernizing” in order to not only work more efficiently (cost savings) but also offer a better service to patients. After all, if waiting times could be slashed through the use of technology – without patient standards dropping – wouldn’t that be great for everyone?

Lei
Guest
Lei

There’s this really relevant article about how technology boosts healthcare services; it has just been published this week. You may want to read it as well: http://www.infinithealthcare.com/resource-center/10-ways-technology-boosts-healthcare-services/

Luis
Guest

Hopefully we can use technology to help the world with its health

David
Guest

With health care and technology we should be implementing factors on how we can use this to educate the public. With medical advancements being made all the time it is worth it for us to technology to our creation of good health.

Granpappy Yokum
Guest
Granpappy Yokum

So getting the report of your mother’s imaging study by fax was bad for her health because . . .

allan
Guest
allan

“If only my clinical colleagues could avail themselves of similar tools and technologies…” … “That hit home again last week when… I asked my mother’s family doctor for a copy of a report on an imaging study he had ordered.” If the nitty gritty exchange between the willing buyer (patient) and the willing seller (physician) were permitted we would have a marketplace. I’ll bet that you would have gotten the report any which way you wanted and if not a good reason why. But medicine is not in the free market, rather under tremendous government control, so we have to… Read more »

Peter1
Guest
Peter1

“Fax machine, really?”

Bill, given the insecurity of the internet lately, for which Microsoft is the most insecure, why are you surprised? How upset would you be if your mother’s medical records were hacked – from a Microsoft platform?

allan, maybe that’s the free market you’re always illusion-ing to?

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

“If there were only one man in the world, he would have a lot of problems, but none of them would be legal ones. Add a second inhabitant, and we have the possibility of conflict. Both of us try to pick the same apple from the same branch. I track the deer I wounded only to find that you have killed it, butchered it, and are in the process of cooking and eating it. The obvious solution is violence. It is not a very good solution; if we employ it, our little world may shrink back down to one person,… Read more »

allan
Guest
allan

Bobby: The free market depends upon laws of the state and the enforcement of contracts. Don’t conflate the free market as understood by most people with free market anarchism.

Also take a look at section 8 of the Constitution.

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

@allan: “the willing buyer (patient) and the willing seller (physician) were permitted we would have a marketplace”
___

Dyad. No mention of the requisite 3rd party.
_

“Don’t conflate the free market as understood by most people with free market anarchism.”
__

YOU were the one who called regulation “coercion” on this blog.

allan
Guest
allan

@Bobby: “YOU were the one who called regulation “coercion” on this blog.” You ought to start reading more carefully. I don’t know how many times you have misread something or taken something out of context. Where did I say all regulation is coercion? I accused some regulation of being coercive. It may well be that all regulation has some coercive qualities otherwise how would one regulate which side of the road to ride on? I never proposed anarchy or a lack of any government or any regulation. Once again I challenge you to find and quote my statements in context… Read more »

allan
Guest
allan

Peter1, I’m not sure what direction you are taking in your comment, but I will accept it as a positive one. The marketplace will sort out the need for both security and ease. In fact it would permit all methods to survive as long as there were enough individuals desirous enough for a method that would support it.

Peter1
Guest
Peter1

“The marketplace will sort out the need for both security and ease.”

Does the marketplace include government?

allan
Guest
allan

For contracts one needs judicial and enforcement bodies.

In todays world there is more requirements of government, however, government’s involvement should have the least interference with the marketplace as possible.

We also have to consider the concept of federalism. As central governments grow bigger and more powerful they exert more dictatorial and fascistic power.

Peter1
Guest
Peter1

“they exert more dictatorial and fascistic power”

Ya, giving people subsidies to buy health coverage – how despotic.

Seems you didn’t mind the tax subsidies for your HSA and HD coverage – from the feds. Have you looked how many federal dollars flow into the states – especially red states? Don’t forget FEMA dollars for states that won’t enact storm measures.

allan
Guest
allan

“Ya, giving people subsidies to buy health coverage – how despotic.” Peter1, I have been the one that wants to provide subsidies to those in need. You want the government to own the plan. “Seems you didn’t mind the tax subsidies for your HSA” So far HSA’s are the only program that seems to be voluntary, growing and successful in keeping costs down so don’t knock them. However, as far as tax subsidies go I would end them if I could or I would give a fixed amount to everyone and end the need for government to micromanage healthcare. Yes,… Read more »

Peter1
Guest
Peter1

“Peter1, I have been the one that wants to provide subsidies to those in need.” allan, seems everyone in America needs a subsidy. From employer provided tax free, to HSA tax deductible, to Medicare, Medicaid and now ACA. Just who would your “in need” be? “You want the government to own the plan.” Who owns the plan now? Insurance, employer, patients, Medicare recipients? “So far HSA’s are the only program that seems to be voluntary, growing and successful in keeping costs down so don’t knock them.” Sure, with a tax subsidy and for those with incomes large enough to afford… Read more »

allan.
Guest
allan.

Peter1, you seem to dislike HSA’s though as a program they have worked for the middle class as well as the rich. They have also cut costs without overall negatively affecting care. What other program has done that? It is true that the lower income group gets less of a tax deduction, but the same thing is true when their healthcare premium is paid in lieu of income. In other words it is a wash except the HSA has saved a lot of money and therefore can lead to lower premiums for everyone concerned. “I guess you’d prefer insurance companies… Read more »

Peter1
Guest
Peter1

“you seem to dislike HSA’s ” No, I dislike people who want government out of health care but like the tax advantages that make their HSAs work. It’s called hypocrisy. “They have also cut costs without overall negatively affecting care.” No, they have not cut prices for health care, they have transferred costs and risk to patients. The lower your income the higher the risk, the higher your income the larger the tax incentive and the lower the risk. “Insurance companies by nature don’t micromanage.” They micromanage the payment system. Narrow networks and refusal to pay for certain procedures are… Read more »

allan.
Guest
allan.

@Peter1: “No, I dislike people who want government out of health care but like the tax advantages that make their HSAs work. It’s called hypocrisy.” Peter1, don’t get angry and say things you will later regret. You know I don’t like the healthcare tax deduction and would be rid of it if possible even for HSA’s. I am forced to deal with second best solutions. A person who pays a higher premium for a low deductible gets the tax advantage for that extra premium. Why shouldn’t the HSA holder get the same tax advantage either with the savings on the… Read more »

Retired MD
Guest
Retired MD

In addition: At a forum sponsored by Khosla Ventures, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page discussed the burden of health care regulations in the United States. When asked, “Can you imagine Google becoming a health company?”, Brin responded: Health is just so heavily regulated, it’s just a painful business to be in. It’s just not necessarily how I want to spend my time. Even though we do have some health projects, and we’ll be doing that to a certain extent. But I think the regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that I think it would dissuade a… Read more »

Retired MD
Guest
Retired MD

Yes it would be easy to email, but see the attached about email and HIPAA. Then you will understand, since faxing is considered secure, and one would really need to employ an encrypted email service to be free of the concerns about a costly HIPAA fine. Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule permit health care providers to use e-mail to discuss health issues and treatment with their patients? Answer: Yes. The Privacy Rule allows covered health care providers to communicate electronically, such as through e-mail, with their patients, provided they apply reasonable safeguards when doing so. See 45 C.F.R. § 164.530(c).… Read more »

Peter1
Guest
Peter1

Health care IS like Microsoft.

Products difficult to understand and impossible to navigate but for the most proficient user, dominate control of market (not from innovation) and hugely frustrating to work with.

Please Microsoft, stay out of health care, it’s already complicated enough.

Andrew Richards
Guest
Andrew Richards

Healthcare care learn to embrace innovation without decades of studies (for some things)

Mededwriter
Guest
Mededwriter

And put the patient (read: user) at the center of the action: https://www.google.com/intl/en/about/company/philosophy/

Dr. Watson I Presume
Guest
Dr. Watson I Presume

You left out:

Move to more democratic power structure and less fragmented organization (sure, depends on the tech company, but in many cases)

Embrace a culture of creativity / innovation

Encourage failure

Build legal firewalls that encourage risk taking