Recovery and Reform: A two-city tale

IMAG0171I am writing this as I wing my way back to Seattle after three days on the road. My first stop was in New Orleans to keynote Tuesday morning at the Medical Group Management Association’s annual conference and exhibition. My second stop was Scottsdale, Arizona, to speak at the Hospital & Physician Relations Executive Summit.

Prior to this, my most recent visit to New Orleans was about nine months IMAG0172after hurricane Katrina. The city at that time was just beginning to come back. Hotels were still struggling to staff necessary positions like housekeepers and waiters. The service was uneven but everybody was willing to give them a break. On this trip I got the feeling that the city was definitely back in full swing, but I couldn’t help but notice a lingering state of disrepair and despair. Certainly the Gulf oil spill has cast its own pall over New Orleans and its citizens. One of the menu items at the Hilton Hotel was a seafood platter called the “fisherman’s stimulus package”.

I enjoyed seeing a few friends and colleagues at the MGMA event. One of the disadvantages of speaking at very large industry conferences is the disconnection that occurs between the speaker and the audience. Looking out from the stage with gigantic video screens to my back and very bright lights shining directly into my eyes, it is tough to connect with, let alone see the audience. It didn’t help that immediately following my presentation I was whisked away to a press room to do a few interviews. Thank goodness there were the brave souls who approached the stage to talk with me before I gave my keynote. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a chance to say hello to anybody.

IMAG0175Once the press interviews were done, I caught a quick bite to eat (seafood gumbo) and headed for the airport to catch my flight to Phoenix. The Hospital and Physician Relations Summit was on a more manageable scale with just a few hundred instead of a few thousand attendees. It was held in Scottsdale at the JW Marriott Camelback Resort. There, I did have a chance to speak one on one with physicians in the audience both before and after my keynote. Conference organizers told me that health reform, accountableIMAG0176 care organizations, and the ARRA HITECH stimulus package were the hot topics this year. Several doctors at the conference told me they were holding off on purchasing an EMR regardless of the stimulus funds. They just don’t have confidence in the available solutions and they certainly didn’t like the prices. While I sympathized with these docs, I also made it clear that the clock is ticking and it won’t be too long before what is now a carrot from the Feds becomes a stick. I also shared my feelings that more contemporary solutions will soon be available via the “cloud” and that we are likely to see a shakeup as the industry moves away from legacy to more commodity-priced solutions delivered as a subscription service not unlike cable TV. We also spent some time talking about personal health records (Microsoft HealthVault) and how this model of aggregating health data around consumers, and giving them control over who they share it with, gets us closer to the always available, truly transportable electronic heath record.

So there it is, a two-city tale of recovery and (health) reform. 

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft

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