This week I’ve been hanging out at the beautiful El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico to meet with customer and partners at the annual conference of the Puerto Rico Hospital Association (Asociación De Hospitales De Puerto Rico). I also had the honor of providing the opening keynote to the conference on Wednesday morning. It was my second trip in as many years to this popular island territory of the United States. Like last year’s conference, this year’s event was well attended. And as before, Association Vice President Enrique Baquero-Navarro hosted a well-planned agenda.
Between meetings with Microsoft customers and partners I had an opportunity to sit down with one of CIOs I met at last year’s event. He told me that he recently left his hospital employment to take a job with the government overseeing health IT on the island. I asked him how Puerto Rico was doing on EMR adoption compared to the mainland US. He said despite High-Tech Act incentives offered through Medicaid, the uptake of electronic records was still slow-going. He said local physicians were unwilling to “open their books” in order to participate in incentive programs. He also said that culturally, many docs in Puerto Rico just weren’t ready to change long-established workflows on paper.
Although there may be resistance over EMR adoption, there is surprising progress being made in other areas. New data centers are being developed to provide cloud services to the healthcare sector, and unified communications technology is being utilized for care team collaboration and tele-health services. Tertiary specialty centers are using our Lync technology for remote consultations, medical education, and virtual meetings. There is also a strong demand for business and clinical intelligence solutions as hospitals in Puerto Rico, like hospitals across the US, prepare for mandates associated with healthcare reform.
It seems everywhere I travel these days the challenges and opportunities of delivering healthcare services to communities are similar. Budget constraints rule the day, and hospital administrators must make wise choices on how they spend their money. With one foot firmly planted in the challenges of the present, and the other in anticipation of “where the puck is moving” tomorrow, one thing is certain. Technology must play a major role in scaling the delivery of healthcare services, measuring the efficacy of provided treatments, and improving productivity in the industry (thereby lowering costs).
So, while there is an element of “Argh!” in all of this, there is also reason for hope. We will get there. Our collective healthcare and economic futures depend on it.