Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 15/11/2005Thanks to Peter Kirwan’s excellent Fullrunner email service, I catch up on Intel’s ongoing attempts to batter down the gates of the global health system. I’m going to repeat myself here until I go into full-blown VF: medicine worldwide needs to totally reform itself along the lines of the IT industry.

Tuesday 15/11/2005

Thanks to Peter Kirwan’s excellent Fullrunner email service, I catch up on Intel’s ongoing attempts to batter down the gates of the global health system. I’m going to repeat myself here until I go into full-blown VF: medicine worldwide needs to totally reform itself along the lines of the IT industry. We may not be ideal, but we know how to discover the right information and deliver it accurately and cheaply where it’s needed. That’s the core job of health, but it’s twenty years behind. It hasn’t got twenty years to catch up before the money runs out. It may not have ten.

Intel knows this, and like any moderately greedy corporate feeding machine is up for its slice of the action. Unlike most MGCFMs, though, it has the brains to know that it will do much better if it brings as many people along for the ride as it can. Which is why boss Otellini tells the Financial Times  that healthcare "is least penetrated by information technology of any major industry… I won't name the vendor, but I have seen the price tag on the printer cable for an MRI-machine that was $5,000. Printer cables at Dixons are probably $25. The difference is, the MRI machine has a proprietary pin-out. It is the exact same thing, but with a proprietary pin-out."

This is the nightmare parallel world we in IT would be living in if it wasn’t for the Internet, IBM leaving the PC specification open, twenty years of not worrying about software patents and the general sharing of information that meant no one company — no, not even Microsoft — could hive off private fiefdoms where nobody else could play. You can still find little reminders around the place — ever tried to buy a network interface for a printer with a proprietary expansion system? — but by and large we pay a fair price for good equipment that does a decent job.

Yet we'll have to enter that nightmare parallel world every time we get sick. That's where our tax money's going, our health insurance premiums, the money that should be building hospitals and hiring more hospital doctors so the ones we have can get some sleep. A world where proprietary concerns set the rules. A world where, if Otellini is to be believed, printer cables cost the same as a decent second hand car.

Perhaps you can help me here: I've tried to track down the $5000 printer cable, but have drawn a blank. I don't care if it's $500 or $50 or the sterling equivalent, but if it's out there I want to find it. And, of course, anything else of similar bent. I don't know exactly how to start pricking the beast of proprietary health machinery, but getting some evidence together would be a darn good start. So if you know what's going on and can email me some pointers, some specifics, I'll take it from there.

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