As the epic Seinfeld episode noted almost 15 years ago, "not that there's anything wrong with that." Which was then, and is now, a way of asking whether anything is. Wrong with that. (Picture from the Mayo Clinic.)
The alliance of big hospitals and big computing vendors is a natural one. The hospitals don't understand computing, and the vendors don't understand hospitals. Both know there is money to be made, and saved, by working together.
In the case of Mayo and IBM, the first idea was to use IBM's biggest computers to analyze all of Mayo's patient data, and use data-mining to improve care. Has it? I have yet to see a press release on that.
Microsoft has been building its own alliances in the last years, on behalf of its Azzyxi platform. These are more nuts-and-bolts, less research-oriented, than the IBM initiative, but they have the same aim -- gain knowledge to gain traction.
The unfortunate result is a centralization of power, both for a few medical institutions and among a few deep-pocketed vendors.
Is there anything wrong with that?
What we do know is that American hospitals do big well, they do great well, they do research very well. But the system, as a whole, still performs poorly, when compared to other developed nations, and increasingly with developing ones .
Our computing, aimed at our research hospitals, concentrates on the most acute cases, on performing miracles, but these alliances have yet to deliver the kind of routine improvements computing has delivered in every other industry.
There is a reason we have had only two brief recessions in the last three decades, after having them at regular intervals previously. Computing.
Supply-chain systems can practically stop factories on a dime when demand drops. The amount of warehouse space in America has barely changed since the early 1980s.
The real challenges in health care are not cutting edge. They are logistical. They are the kinds of problems computing has been solving in finance, in retailing, in manufacturing, for decades.
When are these alliances going to attack the real problem?