Clearly the health industry is a big focus for Microsoft, why has this come about?
Neil Jordan (NJ): We have taken this approach given that healthcare as an IT industry has pretty much been wellrecognised as being seven to 10 years behind a lot of other industries like financial services. When we started putting the worldwide team together and thinking about what the issues are around that, one that became very obvious was that healthcare products were non-commoditised; technologies were really expensive. You could say that was a really good thing for partners, but for the overall market and its breadth – it is a big market – that is not a good thing. What we have been trying to do over the last 18 months is publish a set of toolkits, products also of course, but health-related toolkits that allow partners to build on top of it.
How does the Australian healthcare sector differ from other countries?
NJ: At a gross level they are very similar. Uptake of digitisation of patient information is at various percentages in different countries. Australia is at a slightly later phase than some other countries, but that might be to its advantage. Interestingly enough there is more digitisation here than in the US but less than most northern European countries. One of the advantages of being slightly later into the market is you can learn from some of the things that haven’t worked so well in other countries. I still worry locally about the level of investment that goes into IT as a function of trying to solve some of the big problems. I don’t think anyone would argue that healthcare here and in many other countries doesn’t have big issues around rising costs, increasing needs for transparency for information, increasing needs for informational visibility to increase quality of care. Globally healthcare IT is the fastest growing market. Australia it would seem is a little under-invested at the moment. According to IDC the total market is worth $US2.8 billion next year, which actually puts it in pretty good shape. That means it is the same market size as France or Germany, for example, but underneath the UK, Japan and the US.The message to partners, I think, is there is gold in them hills. The language you see coming out of things like the 2020 report clearly show healthcare needs to become a more information-rich business.
Healthcare requires quite specific skill sets and knowledge. Is that a prohibitive barrier to getting partners to enter the market?
NJ: Actually learning the stuff you need to know about health, I wouldn’t say it is trivial, but it is certainly not prohibitive. In my job as the worldwide health managing director at Microsoft you would think I would need to be really health specific. The interesting thing is I actually came from a telco background. Microsoft hired me to be a telco expert. Learning health isn’t actually as frightening as people will have you believe. Particularly at the level of innovation that has been going on today. There has been a real dominance in the market place by big clinical vendors – these tend to be pretty expensive applications that you would probably replace once every 10 or 15 years. We’re now seeing a bit of a shift in the market to people doing slightly more innovative and almost pre-built, pre-template applications. They are not necessarily in exactly the same space; in those spaces I would look at things like business intelligence, or real-time communications using Office Communications Server.