Microsoft Doc’s Outlook on Health

Grand Rounds Speaker Dennis Schmuland on the Digital Health Revolution

October 20, 2015

Microsoft revolutionized personal computing in the 1980s and 1990s. Today the company is discovering that its tech prowess can be put to new purpose: give health professionals the tools to collaborate, both virtually and physically, on mobile, patient-centered teams, empowering patients to take charge of their health.

Dennis Schmuland

Among those leading the way is Dennis Schmuland, Microsoft’s chief strategy officer for U.S. Health and Life Sciences, and the October 21 Grand Rounds speaker at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Schmuland, a family physician who has worked in technology for nearly 20 years, will discuss the digital revolution in health, which he argues still has a long way to go.

Take electronic health records. They were designed to capture, organize, and stockpile information, not to empower health professionals or consumers. Health professionals and patients want more, according to Schmuland. “They want their health plans and providers to work together to leverage digital health technologies that can empower them to take the actions they need to maximize their health and speed their recovery.”

Just about any technology can be harnessed for health. One hurdle is getting people to stay with their goals, whether going to the gym or deciding to quit smoking. Communication tools like Skype can solve this problem, says Schmuland, by connecting its users with a companion or coach to help them stick to the plan.

“Healthy living is hard. We have to make it easier, fun, and more of the social norm, wherever possible,” Schmuland says. As an example, he cites a study by UnitedHealthcare which found that overweight children who used Microsoft’s Xbox game system to play games that involve physical activity lost twice the weight of those who didn’t and remained more active even a year after the study.

Schmuland serves on advisory boards for Pfizer, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and, with Dean Linda P. Fried, as a commissioner on the Vitality Institute Commission on Health Promotion and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Working Age Americans. Attend his Grand Rounds talk on October 21 Alumni Auditorium, or watch it on LiveStream.