Interview

Solutions for Transformation : Patrick Downing, Product Unit Manager, Microsoft Healthcare Solutions Group

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Q. Currently, the healthcare industry across the region seems to be in a race to catch up with IT uptake and adoption of technology. What has been your observation in this regard and what do you think are the reasons behind this lag?

A. Transforming healthcare is a complex problem with no easy answer and certainly no quick-fix solution. With the Asia Pacific region experiencing increasing challenges and escalating healthcare costs, healthcare organisations are continually threatened by an insufficient allocation of technology, resources, and capabilities for their efforts.

Technology has a very real and proven ability to drive transformation�arming healthcare workers, plan administrators�and most importantly, consumers, with the best knowledge for real-time collaboration and decision-making. We believe this will chart the path to better, more efficient healthcare outcomes.

At Microsoft, we firmly believe in software�s ability to make a positive impact on the healthcare ecosystem worldwide. However, no one company can solve it alone. We are taking the long view in our approach to enabling transformation across the healthcare system – it will be a marathon as opposed to a sprint.

Q. Microsoft�s acquisition of Global Care Solutions (GCS) is supposed to have expanded capabilities for both the companies, while creating superior value for customers. Kindly reflect on this.

A. The acquisition complements Microsoft�s already strong portfolio of health solutions and will provide hospitals across international markets with a new alternative to achieve improved workflow and patient safety through information technology.

Global Care Solutions� impressive state-of-the-art health information system has enabled complex facilities such as the Bumrungrad International hospital in Bangkok achieve amazing outcomes related to improved workflow and patient safety. The international, fully integrated nature of the GCS technology, and the fact that it is built from the ground up on scalable Microsoft technology, makes this a great addition to our portfolio of health enterprise products as we look to power developing and emerging hospital systems around the globe. The GCS solution has allowed the Bumrungrad facility manage scheduling demands, multiple languages and medical records so efficiently that the average waiting time to see a doctor is only 17 minutes.

Q. Up till now, Bumrungrad International is known to be the one lone success story of GCS in Asian region. Given that from now, your solutions will be offered under Microsoft�s brand name, how do you foresee business prospects in the near future?

A. The success of Bumrungrad is a sterling example that we foresee other hospitals and medical facilities modeling their technology deployments on. The synergies between GCS solutions and Microsoft�s health solution portfolio and the future innovations will further strengthen the product offering to new and existing customers globally.

GCS�s successes also extend to 6 other customers outside of Bumrungrad International. We have HIS systems installed at Franco-Vietnamese Hospital in Vietnam, Asian Hospital in the Philippines and Assunta Hospital in Malaysia. In addition to this, we have been very successful in the Singapore market with Changi General, KK Women and Children�s and Singapore General Hospital with a combination of PACS systems, medical records document imaging, and image distribution for the SingHealth cluster of hospitals and Polyclinic (these facilities comprise 49% of Singapore healthcare).

Q. The recent launch of Amalga PACS under Microsoft banner promises a new beginning in enterprise healthcare solution. What technological and functional specialties are built-in Amalga, and how does it bring in a differential advantage over other PACS?

A. Microsoft Amalga RIS/PACS is an integrated Radiology Information System (RIS) and Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) that is available as a stand-alone imaging system or a seamlessly integrated component of Microsoft Amalga Hospital Information System (HIS).

Amalga RIS/PACS is part of the Microsoft Amalga Family of Health Enterprise Systems, a portfolio of enterprise-class health solutions that provides rich integration, giving clinicians and utives quick access to valuable, up-to-the-minute information across their health enterprise.

The clear winners are doctors, administrators, and patients. Most companies don�t integrate their PACS and RIS software, translating into a forced fit between the systems. This often imposes the manual matching of studies between the PACS and RIS.

The Integration of Microsoft Amalga RIS/PACS provides a powerful, truly seamless system that can deliver quick, high-quality data to any department, which, in turn, can help hospitals increase patient turnaround time and enhance the patient experience. Integration also improves data integrity between PACS and RIS, can reduce transcription errors and duplication of data entry, and optimizes report turnaround. The system fully supports paperless, integrated workflows and facilitates easy access to patient medical information and order, scheduling, and study information.

The new Amalga family is built on widely used and supported Microsoft products to deliver important benefits, including security, high availability, scalability and full audit capabilities. Amalga also offers simplified deployment and improved supportability through streamlined administration, configuration and self-service tools for users.

Key benefits are:

  • Automatic order management integrated from EMR and RIS
  • Automatic scanning and attachment of hard copies to study orders
  • Image manipulation tools include 3-D cursor location
  • Multiple language support provides patient demographic and screen label data in any Unicode language
  • Integrated database ensures patient medical information is accessible directly from the PACS
  • Template-driven options include reporting and voice recognition
  • Intuitive Report Editor accepts written or dictated reporting
  • Preference for radiologist worklist studies are customizable
  • Instant Study assignment to radiologist at time of ordering
  • Warning system provides real-time notifications to prevent radiologists from reporting a study that is being reported by another radiologist
  • Online Historical studies make historical studies available for quick retri, regardless of study age
  • Unlimited Study revisions save any or all key images, window-level settings, and image annotations
  • CD creation for PACS studies, Reports, and Electronic Medical Record. Options include DICOM and JPEG images, reports, and all or selected portions of a patient�s EMR.

Q. The major bottleneck for mass adoption of Health IT is the �technology averseness� of doctors. Does Microsoft have plans to increase technology friendliness of doctors through education programs?

A. One major reason for the bottleneck is the healthcare industry�s own conservative attitude and reluctance to change. For example, it currently takes 17 years for a new drug to be fully approved. It does not help that the advancement in healthcare is often inextricably tied to a government�s agenda, which puts additional consideration in areas like political sensitivity, employment issues and so on, giving greater reason for highly conservative attitude.

At Microsoft, we believe that we are in a unique position to deliver solutions that span from the hospital to the physician�s office to the patient�s home. Our willingness to partner with other leading industry vendors further expands the reach of the Microsoft platform in Health IT. With a friendly, consistent user experience and rich set of services, we believe that doctors will more readily accept Microsoft-based healthcare solutions than older, legacy products.

As mentioned before, we are taking a long-term view in our approach and it will require significant effort to inform and educate healthcare providers about our solutions. Events such as our upcoming participation in the HIMSS APAC exhibition are an example of the kind of outreach that we will engage in over the next several years.

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