I ran across a Webinar from March 4, 2010 the other day about “the cloud.” The presenter was Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. It changed my understanding of where the cloud is and where we are going. He didn’t address EMRs specifically, but it easy to see how the cloud will be part of the solution to networking EMR and health information to make it useful, reduce costs, and improve outcomes. Excerpts from the transcription:
First principle, the cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities.
The amount of invention that needs to happen is high. The world is still not a perfect place in terms of the commercial infrastructure. Yes, you can create a Web page and put on an AdSense ad. But, we certainly haven’t fulfilled the sense, the opportunities to create technology that empowers the creator. …
Immediately people get nervous, particularly when you talk about advertising. They get nervous, what about my privacy. And that’s why I think we have to talk about the opportunities and the responsibilities. The responsibilities for creators, for business people to respect the consumer, to build technologies that really do allow the user to be in control. … And yet I think we have a responsibility, all of us, not just to socially respect the user, but to build the technology that will protect the anonymity, the privacy, the security of what I say, who I say it to, where I go, what’s important to me.
Second dimension of the cloud: The cloud learns and helps you learn, decide and take action
The world is a large, complicated place. So, the first thing that got built to help people navigate was essentially directory services, search services. People built tools to help you navigate and find information, pull it all together, et cetera. And yet, we’ve got to go further than that. The cloud needs to learn about you and it needs to keep learning and figuring things out about the world that has been described virtually.
It’s great to know about 83 million Web sites on the planet, but if you’re actually trying to find something specific … I’ll put my hand up, as part of the U.S. healthcare debate I decided I should actually understand what we spend money on as a society. Try that one out for size. Pick any search engine you like and go give it a whirl. You’ll get a bunch of links, you’ll find a bunch of data, you’ll probably try to cut it, copy it, paste it, but you won’t be able to just sort of describe maybe like a simple, little chart that you would like to see populated. How much money do we spend on healthcare, how much of it gets spent on older people, younger people, poorer people, richer people, people in the last year of their life.
It’s only about eight numbers, there happen to be eight numbers that you can’t learn by following the public debate. But, there were eight numbers that I felt as a citizen I ought to know. But, the ability of the cloud to actually learn from all of the data that’s out there, and the ability of the cloud to learn from me what I’m interested in is not what it will be two, three, four, five years from now.
I happen to be a numbers thinking guy, I would create that little healthcare thing as a little spreadsheet. I would want Excel to just go get that stuff from the cloud. And so this notion of learning, learning about me, learning about the world, making conclusions, and then helping me to decide and take action, I think is a very big idea.
The cloud itself needs to learn. It’s got to collect new data. It’s got to sense new data. It’s got to represent the real world, and keep getting smarter and better, so that it can help me learn. … [demonstration using maps and photos to bring information from multiple sources together, including real time sources, e.g hospital, doctors, labs, pharmacies, personal health records.]
I hope the demonstration does a couple of things. Number one, I hope it kind of wets your whistle for some of the kinds of things that can be done. And number two, it really helps bring together this notion about learning about the world, how do we learn from others, how do we pool the data that’s available on the Web to learn about the world, and then map it and make it of interest to somebody in real life.
Third dimension. The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions …
Dimension No. 4, the cloud wants smarter devices.
The way in which we can learn about you, the sensors, the cameras, the voice, the gestures, today. This year, we’ll get about 10 billion utterances, speech utterances, submitted to us in the cloud through something called our TellMe Service, which handles call centers, and Bing kind of phone voice response searches, and the like. And so, the ability for the device to participate in connecting to the user, providing a richer interface, to get data back from sensors, and use that to improve the cloud experience on behalf of the users is really quite strong.
Later this year, we’ll ship a thing that we call Project Natal. It’s a camera that comes with the Xbox, and it recognizes you, and your voice, and your gestures. … The great smart device hardware is going to bring together the best of what we think of today as rich clients, and the best of browsers, and the best of a next generation of natural user interface, voice, touch, speech, et cetera, all in one unit. [EMRs and the user interfaces.]
Dimension No, 5, the cloud drives server advances that, in turn, drive the cloud.
Cloud Computing Remarks by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington Seattle, Wash. March 4, 2010