IBM has touted several supercomputing wins with drug discovery firms and created a group focusing on health care technology. Similarly, Intel is working with a research institute to see if semiconductor equipment can detect the onset of cancer. It also has devised baby monitor systems.
Anyone whose eyes have popped out reviewing a medical bill knows why. Health care costs have skyrocketed, and medicine has remained somewhat resistant to giving up pens and paper for computers--think of those paper charts in hospital rooms. The worldwide graying of the population, combined with longer life spans, means a system will have to be created that lets patients send in vital statistics remotely.
Louis Burns, who once ran Intel's desktop group, manages the company's Digital Health Group, formed earlier this year. Intel hasn't had much success to date in branching out beyond PCs and servers. In a recent interview, though, Burns laid out the case why, conceivably, you could see "Intel Inside" on a chilly medical instrument coming at you one day.
Q: Why are the costs so outrageous in health care? Is it an inefficient system? Weren't HMOs supposed to straighten this out?
Burns: There are a lot of reasons for that, and it is all over the map. What we've had to do is look at places where they have done a pretty good job of it. Kaiser (Permanente) has got a pretty interesting integrated system. Kaiser is a provider and a buyer. They have very clear motivations for improving the overall quality of care, of improving safety for patients, and in lowering the cost. Where the payer and provider are integrated, like at the VA or an NHS (National Health System), it is much easier to go about lowering the costs.
Now I'm not suggesting that the U.S. adopt a nationalized or socialized concept, but in those places (where such systems exist) they made pretty good progress in some cases.
If you look in the U.S. at most of the non-teaching hospitals, they have a percent and a half margin. They run a pretty tight budget. There are examples above and below that, but they don't have huge amounts of money to spend. And, quite frankly, probably a more visible thing to do is buy a new MRI machine or a new ward rather than make the hospital wireless or improve the nurses' efficiency by 20 percent. So there are a bunch of issues.
Now if you look at our industry, the technology industry spent more money and time improving first-person shooter games than the outcome in the emergency room. Think about that for a second. What we're really trying to do is get our industry focused on health care issues. We think there is a very big growth opportunity for our industry. We're not doing it just to feel good about it. You have to be patient and listen to understand the issues, but we think the opportunity is huge.
The numbers associated with health care are pretty staggering. Some estimate that 15 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product goes to health care and could reach 25 percent by 2015.
Burns: The market size is undeniable. You can't deny that millions and millions of people are living longer. That wave is coming at us. We were looking at some data on Japan. Today for every three people working, there's one retired, and it's heading toward less than two.
In the U.S., it's five people working and it's going down to three, over a longer period. Twenty-five percent of the GDP? That's not doable.
IT companies have tried to break into the health care market before, and it didn't take off like a wildfire. Is there anything that you've seen in the past that explains what went wrong?
Burns: It really comes back to the ability to drive standards: to get agreement and then let the economics work. When you get standards you get massive innovation around those standards, and then you get massive economic benefit. The attempts before have been spotty and not organized.
Now, it's not going to be easy. I've been in pre-ops and post-ops in the same building, and all the (computer) systems in pre-op are completely different than they are in post-op. I've been in post-op where there are three separate systems with three different interfaces to take the same vital signs.
Why can't the human interface be consistent? Why can't the connectivity be consistent? There are a lot of simple examples where there is unnecessary differentiation.
The Sensitron system is a great system. (Sensitron has created a PC on a medical cart that gathers and stores patient data.) They looked at the legacy system and said, "How can we do that with Bluetooth and Linux?"
They took how doctors and nurses work in the world today and then automated it, so they wouldn't have to write it down and write it down and write it down.
Are there cultural hurdles you'll have to overcome with the medical community. Doctors seem to go into these trials almost jaundiced, making comments like, "What, you want me to use a Pocket PC to conduct rounds?"
Burns: Yeah, there is a cultural aspect of this. They're highly
Page 1 | 2
3 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment