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Microsofts Crounse critiques health IT in North America

BUDAPEST, Hungary – The United States and Canada are perhaps the “worst of the worst in the industrialized world in the use of IT in healthcare,” said Dr. Bill Crounse (pictured) at the eHealth Week conference in Budapest.

“I see physicians in perhaps less developed countries bypassing all that legacy technology and using commodity off-the-shelf contemporary solutions, using tablets and speech recognition and doing their discharges, all with technology that costs pennies on the dollar, and then I come home to America and look at these $150 million systems and say, 'wouldn’t we be better spending that on patient care instead of IT?'”

Dr. Crounse, senior director of Worldwide Health for Microsoft, provided eHealth Week attendees with a tour of numerous advances in healthcare technology emerging throughout the world, while emphasizing the importance of putting patients in control of healthcare IT.

Political leaders, hospital and IT executives from across Europe gathered together at eHealth Week 2011, and the World of Health IT, in Budapest to advance the continent's digital health infrastructure.

“Everywhere I go, the issues are the same. The burden of chronic disease, global competition, rising prices,” he said. “I implore you to think about a system that aggregates data around the consumer and puts consumers in control of their own information,” said Crounse, a champion of Microsoft’s HealthVault personal health record platform. “And guess what? That doesn’t break the business model.”

The electronic medical record by itself doesn’t do a thing but store information, he added. “It’s really what you do next that counts. Once we have information digitized, that doesn’t buy you value. It’s what you do with the information, how you use it to manage care, and to collaborate.”

While patient focus should be the top healthcare IT priority, vendors must consider physicians, he said. “I think the industry has not always delivered solutions that work very well for (physicians).” This is where the healthcare IT approach in the United States particularly is struggling, he said.

Crounse sees healthcare potential for myriad technologies, even those not intended for direct application in healthcare. Microsoft’s Surface 2.0, displayed here at WoHIT, is marketed as applicable within the context of healthcare consultations and document management. Even the XBox Kinect gaming console has healthcare potential – Crounse said its sensors could help to rehab a patient's limb or predict an elderly person’s fall.

He highlighted many non-Microsoft technologies as well, such as SayIt, a cloud-based, voice-recognition transcription device, which impressed him with its light footprint and user interfaces. Crounse remarked on the relatively fast track mobile technology has taken into the healthcare space, noting that we’ve only really lived with smartphones for about five years. “Smartphones are really replacing other kinds of devices for us,” he said.

Technology is great, but interoperability remains a sticking point for most healthcare models. “We’re getting there. As we move to the cloud and move to the personal health record platforms we can solve that,” Crounse said. “Keep your eye on the cloud, because everything in healthcare and IT will eventually reside in the cloud.”

Posted May 19, 2011