Q&A: Reordering the global healthcare landscape through digital transformation

All over the world, technology is bringing about new realizations and opportunities to healthcare organizations.
03:17 PM

Neil Jordan, Microsoft’s general manager of worldwide health, discusses how the digital transformation is reordering the global healthcare landscape.

What does digital transformation mean to you?

Digital transformation is a term that everyone is using, but at Microsoft we’re focused on pragmatic digital transformation – steps that can be taken at whatever stage in the digital journey a customer is at. To that end, we have pinpointed four areas of importance in the healthcare digital transformation. We start by focusing on engaging patients. That could be as simple as providing a virtual health consult or, in terms of something more advanced, monitoring a patient remotely. It can even mean engaging with patients before they become patients by using public or population health to engage in education and prevention. Then we look at empowering care teams and optimizing clinical and operational effectiveness. Care teams can be empowered by enabling them to offer great levels of care coordination through the use of technologies like CRM (customer relationship management). We optimize clinical and operational effectiveness by harnessing the power of data analytics to get ahead of possible operational and clinical issues. Finally, we focus on transforming the care continuum – how to use technologies such as genomics and full cognitive predictive analytics to transform the health ecosystem, which is shifting away from treating sick people to prevention and management of long-term, chronic conditions.

What are the biggest trends in healthcare that you’re seeing globally?

The first one is the move towards managing the effects of chronic disease, and that is seen through a shift away from payment for procedures to payment for value. The second biggest trend is the realization that the electronic medical record is the foundation for the digital transformation journey. Countries that have done that big wave of electronic medical record deployment are now looking for that next stage of unlocking and delivering value. In other words, more value is created not through a system of records like the electronic medical record or personal health record, but through systems of insight and systems of engagement.

How do you see innovations like remote patient monitoring, virtual health and advanced analytics play into this?

They’re the underlying technologies of healthcare’s digital transformation journey. Just as one example, if you look at advanced analytics and genomics, there are some exciting things happening in that space. As much larger amounts of data become available and we’re able to make more direct clinical connections, we’ll unlock a whole new layer of personalized insights.

Last year, you mentioned that the health industry needed to fully commit to the cloud. How has the health industry made progress since then?

In the U.S., the conversation has shifted from ‘Can my data be private and secure enough in the cloud?’ to ‘Can all of my data be private and secure enough if I don’t use the cloud?’ What I mean by that is because of technologies like advanced threat protection and the management of multiple device types, healthcare organizations are realizing they need the cloud as a way of managing their identity, managing their security, managing their privacy in a very granular way. Outside the U.S., the big shift I’ve seen is in countries where the laws were initially prohibitive about using cloud technology. Now we’re seeing a lot of countries produce these cloud-first policies. Look at HSE Ireland (Ireland’s health services provider) under Richard Corbridge. That country’s health services provider has said we’re going cloud first and if any healthcare organization isn’t putting its data in the cloud, it will need to get an exception. We’re seeing more countries move in that direction, even in countries like Germany where there are very strict, almost anti-cloud policies. Overall, we’re starting to see a softening, a better understanding, of what’s available, and more customers are moving to the cloud. This brings high levels of commodity; it brings high levels of innovation – and a much faster pace of innovation – than we’ve typically seen. As a company, we have made sure that we are taking a viewpoint around cloud that isn’t a black-and-white one. We’ve been helping customers move to the cloud at the pace that makes sense for them. For example, one of our customers from Germany wanted to do some advanced analytics, but it wasn’t possible for them to move all their data to the cloud. We were able to accommodate their situation because we have a hybrid environment. We could take their data stored at their premises, move it to the cloud for the advanced analytics, then shift all the data and the analysis back to their premises. That really allows us to work around the realities of the laws or even, misconceptions of the cloud.