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A “take over” of healthcare…… really?

I try very hard not to come off too much as a fan boy here on HealthBlog. Yes, I work for Microsoft. But I also have a lot of respect for many other technology companies that are doing good work in the healthcare industry.

The past few months, I’ve come across many, many articles speculating about what some of our competitors are doing in both consumer and enterprise health and healthcare. If you follow the industry, I’m sure you’ve been reading many of the same articles that I read. There have been announcements about wearable devices, new sensors, new services to help consumers store and manage health data, new alliances for cloud services, and new partnerships that are being forged to develop the next generation of ITC solutions for the healthcare industry. While I’ve been tempted to take off the gloves and add to the noise, I’ve held back. After all, as I’ve stated, there are plenty of innovative companies out there that are trying to solve some of the most pressing ICT needs in health and healthcare for both consumers and healthcare professionals.

But today, I came across an article that simply needs a response. In Becker’s Hospital Review, columnist Helen Gregg writes on The Daily Beat Blog, “Why Apple, Epic and IBM will take over healthcare”. Really? Take over healthcare? I don’t think so. No single company, and not even a triumvirate of great companies is going to “take over” healthcare. You’d have to be extremely naïve to believe that is going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

As I pointed out on HealthBlog last week, Healthcare is a very big business. According to WHO, it employs more than 60 million workers around the world. In America, for better or worse, it has become a predominant industry, larger than retail, manufacturing, or hospitality. And while there are plenty of companies large and small that service the information technology needs of the healthcare industry, to say that any of them are even close to “taking over” is wildly exaggerated. Not only is it wildly exaggerated, but if it were to ever happen, it would be a terrible thing for consumers, healthcare professionals, hospitals and clinics.

As one who travels the globe working with healthcare organizations, I can tell you that worldwide there really are not dominant information technology players in the health industry. ICT solutions used in healthcare vary widely depending on where you are. Companies that are more successful in the US, are often absent or barely present in other parts of the world. Even in America, while there are few companies that are making their mark right now, I would hardly say that any of them are dominant. There are some that are rising, and some that are falling, but none that are truly invincible.

I find it particularly ironic that on the same day I am reading an article on “Why Apple, Epic and IBM will take over healthcare”, I come across a post on ZDNet reviewing Robert X Cringely’s new book, The Decline and Fall of IBM: End of an American Icon?. And I know what some of you are thinking. Hasn’t the same been said of Microsoft? Yes indeed, it has.

I’m very proud of the work that my company is doing, and I’m especially pleased with our new CEO and strategic directives. I know that when it comes to health and healthcare, data privacy and security are paramount. It is also essential for any company working in this space to be trustworthy and transparent. It is absolutely an honor to work with the thousands of healthcare customers and partners we serve around the world.

But a “take over” of healthcare. I don’t think so. Not by Microsoft, or any of the other companies you’ve been reading about. There’s plenty of room for all, and that likely includes some new companies we’ve never heard of yet.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft