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On Tuesday I had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Dr. Bill Crounse, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Worldwide Health.A former family medicine doc with a background in broadcasting, Dr. Crounse started his talk by showing a cartoon depicting what people in 1925 predicted telemedicine would look like fifty years into the future. He then shared his own experience with his “Dr. Goodwell” program, which he used in the late 1990s to connect patients to their doctor via computer in order to discuss symptoms and begin the process of diagnosis and treatment. In sharing these blasts from the past, Dr. Crounse pointed out that while consumers and physicians were not ready in 1975 or even in the late ‘90s for new technology to play a real role in health care delivery, we are now living in a time that is ripe with opportunities for technology to greatly improve the way we do our work.

According to Dr. Crounse:

  • We have the technology
  • Consumers are ready
  • Our economic future depends on it
  • The market still resists, but even that is getting better

Dr. Crounse, who practices what he preaches by blogging about his work (his blog lives at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/healthblog/), showed us an example of technology that is allowing surgeons to access patient information in the operating room without breaking scrub to do so; a wave of a hand can take them to different screens on a monitor making information readily accessible when it is needed most.

And of course, tablets are now being used by many clinicians for on-the-go, fast access to patient information and as a tool to instantly communicate with other clinicians involved in a patient’s care. At Kindred, our proprietary electronic health record system is now available as an app for the iPad in the Hospital Division, and in the Nursing Center Division, we’re using PointClickCare, a Web-based application that replaces the bulky, hard-to-search paper chart, and has already made patient records easier to access and update, while protecting patient privacy. We make PointClickCare even more useful when we pair it with a computer on wheels, making it mobile.

Technology is also allowing companies to provide better wellness programs for their own employees. Kindred’s Healthy Steps Wellness program is a partnership with a company called Limeade, which builds tailored wellness software for companies wishing to encourage health and wellness among employees. It allows employees and their spouses to log in, take a well-being assessment, identify wellness goals and then work toward them with the added incentive of winning prizes. If you are a Kindred employee and have not yet explored this program, I definitely encourage you to check it out.

Challenges still exist. We worry about risks, things we haven’t thought of, “alligators in the water,” as Dr. Crounse put it. Even though there has been rapid adoption of new technologies in many health care settings, the systems often don’t talk to each other and are not standardized, a challenge during care transitions. And, according to Dr. Crounse, 40 percent of docs in the United States are still using pen and paper – a shock to some of our colleagues overseas.

Still, it’s an exciting time to be in the business of health care delivery. Have you used new technology in patient care and how has it changed the way you do things? Do you think we’ll soon see a day when technology plays a truly pervasive role in health care delivery in this country?

Dr. Crounse’s presentation was sponsored by the Health Enterprises Network (HEN), a Louisville region organization whose mission is to promote and foster the growth of the health-related economy in a 27-county area around Louisville. Kindred is a member of this great organization, which supports important programs and partnerships in our area, all ultimately aimed at providing better and more efficient health care for the people we and the other 187 member companies serve.

By: Marc Rothman, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Nursing Center Division, Kindred Healthcare

Microsoft Executive Shares Ideas and Reflections on Technology’s Role in Health Care Delivery