Silicon Valley and Healthcare (Part 7)

It is the most exciting time ever to be in healthcare!

When we made the decision to switch industries from real estate, development and commercial construction, and spend a couple of years learning healthcare from the ground up, today is what I envisioned.

The time we live in now is what I believed was an inevitable confluence of tectonic forces – technology, the aging baby boomers and the emergence of an interconnected world.  I could not totally foresee what the internet would become, however the signs were there.

A look back in time to the early 1980s, the foundation was set as to what the future would hold.

First, was my ability to use dial-up services like CompuServe and download at 1200 baud, what appeared to be an unbelievable amount of stock market data (my hobby back then).  It was incredibly expensive, as you paid for that data by the minute of connection time, as well as having to pay for long-distance costs to access the service.  Yet, it was truly amazing because it gave me access to information that only large brokerage firms could get.

Second, was when America Online or AOL was accessible to me, even though I had to call 60 miles away, and again pay for membership and long-distance costs.  The access to AOL, and the connections it brought were truly amazing, both as a small business owner and as a consumer.

Third, was when I first connected to the internet.  Two of my best friends at the time and I created a dial-up bulletin board service, and through that platform, we were able to use computers in our homes to connect to the internet and be away from our local public university – Florida Atlantic University (FAU).  The way we did that was very complicated; we were able to write the emails to each other or to outsiders via modems connected to our home telephones and then upload that information into the bulletin board software via dial-up.  That software would then call up the FAU computers and synchronize with it to upload the emails from our system, and download emails it had queued for our download.  From there, I know that it went on to Virginia and other computers to do the same process.  We performed that routine twice a day; the service was free to our friends.  It was a hobby to us, and we paid all the cost to operate the bulletin board.  I was (and still am) a ham radio operator, and we had the same arrangement with our local VHF repeater service.  It was all great fun.

I wish I had kept one of my business cards from that time, as best as I can remember the email address was extraordinarily long, as it basically mapped out the path I described above, yet, I was on the internet.

Today, that vision of healthcare getting transformed via technology is very much in the headlines of every major publication, media and academic journal.  This morning I received two articles from the famed Harvard Business Review (HBR); one titled “Taking the pulse of healthcare transformation.”

For a time, as a lifelong fan of IBM, I believe that they were going to be the transformers.  We used an IBM small business platform (AS-400) to effectively build the first provider-based integrated health information system in South Florida in 1996.  When I was part of a “relationship agreement” with IBM in 2009, I thought my dreams had become reality however, they did not.

Since I cannot be a provider, my interest in healthcare has always been about how to use technology to allow for better communications, lower cost, and better healthcare outcomes.

Today, with over 25 years of experience in healthcare, I see better than ever that transformation is going to accelerate with major help from companies outside of healthcare.  They can’t be totally outsiders, because healthcare is not only the largest industry on earth, it is also the most complex, and there is nothing more sacred than human life.

To get back to the subject of this blog “Silicon Valley and Healthcare” I do think that one company will have a monster effect on healthcare, and I believe that company is Amazon.  Amazon is actually based in Seattle, Washington, as is Microsoft, which to me are both part of the Silicon Valley legacy.

Why do I think that Amazon is capable of such a dramatic effect on healthcare?

More on that answer in the next few blogs.  The teasers, healthcare outside of the 10 minutes you spend with your physician, is 90% about logistics, supply chain management, billing and collections, transparency (or lack thereof) data analytics and now, consumer centric.  Guess what, Amazon is very good at all those things.

Technology IS transforming healthcare today.

The questions is, can Amazon use its special skills to transform healthcare?

– Noel J. Guillama, President