Partnering for the Future of Health Innovation

20 September 2013 | Elena Bonfiglioli, Senior Director, Health Industry, EMEA

What does the future hold for the delivery of health services? This question is the object of work, speculation, research, discussion, and imagination for many. We often hear that healthcare will be more sustainable, preventive, accessible, personalized, near to home, 24/7, and connected beyond the boundaries of the hospital. In that description, we clearly go beyond product innovation. And rightly so, because product innovation needs to be successfully combined with deep cultural and organizational change as well as policy and process re-engineering. Only the combinations of these factors—none of them in isolation—will make the difference and lead to transformation.

All this may sound good in theory, but how does it apply in reality? Last week I was in Denmark, where the national government and the five Danish regions are investing 5 billion euros to modernize health services delivery, including the construction of several new hospitals. In the Region of Southern Denmark, nine new hospitals and hospital units are to be built over the next 10 years at a total cost of over 1.1 billion euros. As we observe these impressive investments, the question of how we design both products and services for the future becomes paramount.

This is the background against which the Microsoft Denmark and Microsoft Health teams started a collaborative journey with Region Southern Denmark in the Science Park in Odense. No surprise, we believe that “Public-Private Partnership” will help determine what future health technology and innovation is all about.

First of all, let’s try to imagine the charter for the hospital of the future: Single rooms and at the same time a target of 20–30 percent fewer beds. Substantially fewer readmissions and fewer days of stay, combined with follow-up care that is delivered at distance—in the home or in outpatient centers. Investment in IT of 20–25 percent out of the total budget, with the requirement of having at least 70 percent of technologies being patient-centered solutions. And the list of transformative opportunities just goes on …

When I first visited the Odense Science Park, I realized that it provided an exceptional opportunity to think about the future of health, welfare, and hospitals—in other words, to think about the hospital of the future. Once you enter the innovation center, you realize that fluidity, modularity, and creativity are the best ways to think about what the future will look like. The center is a place where they are doing physical mock-ups of the future hospital. Even as you see robots being tested across the hallway, you understand that everything is being reimagined with a people-first approach towards the future: the physical space, the walls, the technology, the operating theater, the common rooms for the staff, the patient rooms, and bathrooms. Every single experience—whether physical, technological, clinical, human, or administrative—is being imagined, designed, tested, lived through the eyes of the stakeholders, and then revisited to build learning from these insights.

For us working in the Health IT domain, this is a dream environment for a people-first approach. It is the opportunity to test products in a living lab and to build real-life feedback loops on how natural user interface technologies will be used in the operating theater of the future. We can learn how seamless unified communication processes will be best adapted and adopted by staff and clinicians as they work in a newly conceived use of space in the hospital—for example, how mobility devices will enable nurses doing the rounds or in emergency departments.

As we strive to drive better outcomes, we need to seize the opportunity to sit with all stakeholders and co-design how technology solutions will play a role in the future of cure, care, and prevention. By enabling stakeholders’ input onsite—placing technologies in their hands and allowing them to imagine their future—we elicit precious feedback and can tap into the tacit knowledge that is too often locked into professional experience, patients’ preferences (or habits), and organizational procedures.

This is what made us dream, and this is what made us partner with Region South, signing a memorandum of understanding on forward-thinking innovation in four areas:

  • Seamless Health Communication and Coordination
  • Application of Natural User Interfaces for Better Health
  • Enabling Patient Centric Processes, Platform and Apps
  • Patient Relationship Management for Pediatric Diabetes

“We can both benefit from direct contact with patients, clinical and IT staff to implement and test Health IT solutions in a real-life lab, to ensure that health innovation brings real impact for better health,” says Neil Jordan, WW Health GM for Microsoft, attending the signature ceremony together with Niels Soelberg, the CEO of Microsoft Denmark and Carl Holst, the President of the Southern Denmark Regional council.

As we look into the future, we rest assured that health is a sector of growth, jobs, and innovation. To this end, Niels Soelberg spoke about the importance of embracing and engaging the ecosystem of partners who are leading innovation at the local and international levels. The Microsoft BizSpark program will be a unique lever to support startups to take part in the journey and join the marathon toward future innovation.

Stay tuned to see how today’s partnerships have the opportunity to promote a better and healthier tomorrow.

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Send us an email at health@microsoft.com or let us know on Facebook here or via Twitter here.

Elena Bonfiglioli
Senior Director, Health Industry, EMEA