How Microsoft (and Startups) Can Make Money in Health IT, Personalized Medicine Is a “Crock,” and Other Highlights from the Xconomy Forum

5/14/10Follow @gthuang

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healthcare system in about 23 months. [It’s a] fallacy that this has to be a journey that’s never-ending.” (The Swedish electronic network has more than 600 doctors on it, he said.)

Meanwhile, Friend is on a quest to try to connect the dots between underlying genetic abnormalities and actual symptoms of disease that a doctor can see with conventional diagnostics. But doctors hardly ever gather data on patients that would be useful to help genome scientists make those connections. Friend pointed out that overall, “97 percent of oncology patients don’t get tracked” on their outcomes—that is, there is no clear data on what happens during their course of treatment, and whether their conditions improve or not. This figure struck me as astounding. “We’re living in an ignorance-based world,” Friend said.

He also talked about the need for academic institutions to stop being “ego-driven” and to do things for the greater good, like share their medical research data with colleagues and other institutions. That’s the big idea behind Sage Bionetworks, to create an open-source community for biologists. (This also overlaps with Michael Ball, CEO of Victoria, BC-based GenoLogics, who spoke earlier about combining genomic data with patient records to help create targeted therapeutics.)

Hochman said patient care would be greatly improved if doctors just did what they already know how to do, but in a more efficient way. At Swedish Medical Center alone, if doctors strictly followed the best practices for when they should and shouldn’t prescribe antibiotics, the hospital could save $5 million a year, Hochman said. He didn’t really get a chance to elaborate much on that, but I took his comments to mean IT could play a role in making it easier for doctors to actually follow what are already known as the best medical practices.

But possibly before a lot of new technologies can take hold, Hochman suggested hospitals are just going to start merging as another way to become more efficient. “Healthcare is going to go through a wave of consolidation that we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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