Dec 11 2008

World Healthcare Innovation and Technology Congress Day 3 Wrap-up and Summary

Category: HealthTim @ 9:27 am

The final day of the World Healthcare Innovation and Technology Congress began with a bag, Scott McNealy from Sun discussing how Open Source works for healthcare. McNealy’s presentation was incredibly entertaining; equal parts insightful information and stand-up comedy. Here is a sampling of quotes from McNealy:

  • We must go digital. Just look doctors handwriting and you’ll see, we must go digital.
  • Open Source is a very old concept that we’ve been doing since 1982. If I can go a little Al Gore here, we invented Open Source.
  • Public key encryption schemes are the best option. If you have a secret in your code, it will be discovered and breached. Humans cannot keep a secret. What if the Trojan horse was made of glass? Would they have let it in?
  • When I hear “enterprise license agreement,” I think, “The first hit of heroin is free.”
  • Technology has the shelf life of a banana; it will be outdated before you can roll it out.

McNealy’s message centered around the very real impact Open Source is having on the market and how that success can be brought to healthcare. Sun has spent $26 Billion on research and development and is currently involved in the creation of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).

Open Source has tremendous advantages including avoiding “format rot” in archiving information. What happens 20 years from now when someone needs to open a document created in a proprietary tool like MS Word? Or better yet, how does one render a document created in the Wang system? With Open Source you can bundle the files with the rendering agent.

In a nutshell, McNealy says there are 7 reasons to be open

  1. Lower barriers to entry
  2. Increased security
  3. Faster procurement
  4. Lower cost
  5. Better quality code
  6. Open standards last longer
  7. Lower barriers to exit

As a recovering developer, his comments on better code peaked my curiosity. Basically, developers are very protective of their reputations and releasing code into an open environment for the scrutiny of other codes ensures the code is top-notch. Open Source code tends to be written cleaner and documented thoroughly; coders are opening their robes and exposing themselves to the world. They want to look good.

My favorite comments dealt with the privacy question and how it works the same in the Open Source world. First, “Somebody a long time ago someone said you don’t have privacy, get over it. Oh wait, that was me.”  And the second quote, dealt with what is perceived now as a secure delivery system, the US Post Office. “You take an 8 x 11 piece of paper, stuff it in a folded paper envelope, seal it with spit, write unblinded information in the outside in the to and from areas, give it to the Federal Government for a couple of days, stick it into a tin box, all with the hopes that it will get there.” Yet somehow we worry about the level of encryption used on networks or go so far as to print everything and take them out of the secure networks to set them on a desk.

In closing, McNealy had one more comment on healthcare that resonated around the room, “There is only one industry more screwed-up than computers and that’s healthcare. You kill everyone eventually, I know you are working on it.”

I found more in that 30 minutes of Scott McNealy then I’ve found in entire conferences. I’m very appreciative of him and his taking the time to speak with us.

Next up, was a presentation on Direct Practice Medicine by Scott Shreeve and Jordan Schlain, two physicians who are delivering healthcare differently. Their belief is it’s not always about the throughput, it’s not always about speed, it’s about relationships. The business model involves seeing considerably less patients to avoid the “hamster wheel” syndrome of running faster and faster but not getting anywhere. Their patients subscribe to their clinic and have 24/7 access to physicians who actually know them and spend time getting to really know them. To pay for the services, subscribers increase decidable in their health insurance and use the money saved to pay the monthly access fee.

What I found intriguing was the level of detail in the understanding of the patient and access to care provided with their model. I’m not a physician, but I suspect most physicians enter practice to get to know and improve the lives of their patients. Somewhere along the line we have deviated into short episodes of disparate care that may be causing more harm then good. Having said that, I wonder what happens to patients who need care beyond what is being delivered in this manner, but I do like the concept. I’m going to watch the continued expansion of this model in the future and you can go to currenthealth.md to learn more.

Unfortunately, after this session, I had to be off to the airport and a return to the real world. However, on the way back, I take a couple of learning with me from the congress

  1. Healthcare is in the midst of a fundamental transformation that is being driven by customers, globalization, economic factors, and an unprecedented influx of technology
  2. Social networking on online communication have a central place in healthcare, both in the delivery of care and the support of the care process not to mention uniting the growing army of reformers who are finding support and ideas in the community.
  3. We still have a long way to go.

I want to thank the organizers of the congress for their hard work in putting together an event that was both informative and entertaining. One suggestion, in the future, you audience members are very tech savvy. Give them tables and outlets so they can document and report on the event, look-up resources being discussed, and possibly participate in events online.  Beyond that suggestion, I look forward to next year’s conference.

For more on the congress, try these:

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