Last fall my wife and I became empty nesters and last month I fulfilled my long held promise to her of retiring from the ‘start-up’ lifestyle we have lived during our 24+ years of marriage. I want to be engaged and making an impact on the health ecosystem – just with a different work-life balance. I am delighted to have joined David Brailer’s Health Evolution Partners growth equity fund as an operating partner to help identify and grow innovative companies in health. The health delivery system and overall ecosystem have a long way to go to become ‘digital’ and to benefit from the power of real-time data, ‘industrialization’, and consumer engagement. The economic health of societies across the globe needs the health sector to adopt these changes and tools and faster!
Closing comments on Microsoft and Health Solutions Group:
I went back to work at Microsoft for a second time in 2005 after a seven-year absence where I was the founding CEO of drugstore.com. One crucial lesson learned at drugstore.com was the role that government has in setting the rules of the game. So I decided I wanted to learn more about the government side of the business, and ended up on the President’s Information Technology Advisory Council. Because I was still chairman of drugstore, they made me co-chair of the health subcommittee. And at that time, I got to learn from the IOM, from HHS, and from a lot of experts around the country that people die every day in our health delivery system because of inadequate information systems. That just seemed wrong and that more needed to be done to change it.
I decided to go back to work and try to make a difference. I realized that to really make a difference in ‘digitizing the health economy’ required a company like Microsoft that would have the scale, tenacity, patience, and capabilities to build scalable health platforms. We formed a ‘start-up’ unit inside Microsoft to capitalize on the observation that health is a big and growing segment that’s been under-invested in information technology.
Interestingly enough, during my first week on the job in 2005, Craig Mundie and I went to a GE Healthcare 2015 workshop hosted by GE CEO Jeff Immelt and Sir William Castell. Sir William had actually helped motivate me to go back to work with his inaugural speech at the Pacific Health Summit the summer before that talked about the need for completely different paradigms around early detection and prevention. Then to be able to participate in this two-day conference of 50 leaders in Crotonville, New York, in my first week backed formed a set of impressions that were inspiring and valuable.
Health has always been a part of my life, as it is with everybody. Everybody has personal stories. Healthcare information technology became a passion for me when I observed that health is fundamentally an information management problem, and for whatever reason, there wasn’t the class of systems inside of health organizations that enabled users to leverage real-time data for insight and action. It’s not because the technology suppliers were bad; it’s because the economic infrastructure doesn’t reward the kind of innovation that is rewarded in other industries. It’s a complicated problem and I recognized it would take many steps and time to change it. My inspiration was to leave a better health system for my kids.
And that’s why most of my previous blog posts are centered around the idea that it’s not just about creating a better widget; you have to create a marketplace of incentive systems that allow and motivate people to adopt technology in a different way. I intend to maintain this them in my blog going forward – as I find so many people operate with unexamined assumptions about the role of incentives and policy frameworks in driving health outcomes.
I’m proud of many things we’ve accomplished since starting the Health Solutions Group. We’ve built a trusted brand in an environment where people would have bet against us. Five years ago, people thought we were crazy to talk about personally controlled health records. Today it’s the law. So we’re helping to move the world in the right direction. And the fact that we’ve done it in a way that’s cooperative and collaborative with the rest of the industry is great.
The benefit of the new joint venture between Microsoft and GE is that it allows us to move faster and accelerate our vision. I think it’s clear that customers expect Microsoft to play the role of platform, enabling a best-of-breed environment that allows them to choose from multiple vendors. It’s great to have GE, a first-tier application vendor, say, “Yes, I believe in an open environment, and I’m also going to invest in modifying my technology stack to go take advantage of this and to move forward.”
The vision of this joint venture — the vision that Microsoft has had of a connected, data-driven, health infrastructure — I see it happening. I think the only question is, “Does it take two years or 22 years?” It’s somewhere in between; it’s a matter of how fast reform can happen. I think more and more people will start to find ways to reap the benefits of bundling (as Zeke Emanuel wrote about in the New York Times), more prescriptive care pathways, and technology that lowers costs and improves patient outcomes.
So, it’s clear it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when. And whether the U.S. will be a leader or some other country leapfrogs the U.S. in capabilities. I am confident the JV will have a major role to play in liberating the data, driving insight, empowering users and the health system alike to improve patient outcomes.