Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt has a plan to save US healthcare and it involves a whole lot of data

  • Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, outlined his vision for the future of healthcare recently on the podcast “Theory and Practice” which focuses on the intersection of biology and computer science. 
  • Schmidt believes accessing larger amounts of data will lead to better healthcare outcomes.
  • More electronic health and medical records (EHR/EMR) will be stored on the cloud which will improve access to large amounts of data and will also be able to support the vast quantity of data the healthcare industry produces, he said.
  • Schmidt said this will allow for more “deep data science” to perform predictive analytics to inform doctors on decision making for patients. 
  • With increased data sharing, the healthcare industry will be less disjointed and more efficient. “What’s nice about healthcare is that improvements in efficiency are also aligned with improvements in health,” Schmidt said. 
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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has a vision for healthcare. 

He explained it on a recent episode of the podcast “Theory and Practice” which focuses on the intersection of biology and computer science. The podcast is produced by Google AI and venture arm GV, which was formerly known as Google Ventures.

Schmidt, a billionaire who studied electrical engineering at Princeton University, was Google’s CEO for a decade, and later served as executive chairman. He left that role at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, in early 2018.

Schmidt has long held beliefs about the important role of big data and data sharing, he said. Data-sharing has faced obstacles in healthcare, where the privacy of personal health data is a big concern.

Schmidt said he believes that better data access and sharing will improve healthcare.

“If you look at the medical system in America, it was never designed in a way that you and I were agree as rational. The incentives are misaligned and the databases are poor,” Schmidt told co-hosts Anthony Philippakis, a venture partner at GV and Alex Wiltschko, senior research scientist with Google AI.

“I believe because of the gains in machine learning and data analysis, we have an opportunity to rethink some of those underlying assumptions.” 

Making it easier to access data to improve the healthcare system

Because of the disjointed nature of the US healthcare system, Schmidt said that all medical data should be in one place that is easy for the doctor and patient to access.

“When I go to the doctor, I want to give them a login and a password for me, and when they log in I want them to see all of my medical data from everywhere,” Schmidt said. 

As Schmidt outlines in the podcast episode, oftentimes when a patient has to have multiple tests done by different specialists, the medical information is not shared between their systems. This is just one example of the disconnected communications that Schmidt says could easily be fixed. 

Another important point to fix is making large amounts of health data available for research purposes. Schmidt said the privacy issue could be resolved by allowing patients to opt out of data collection. “Otherwise, that data is, by custom, made available for research purposes to make the system stronger,” he said. 

The cloud is the frontier for medical data 

Schmidt said that a key step would be to put all medical data on the cloud, where it can more easily be accessed and analyzed.

“Right now, the majority of medical data is not even in the electronic health record (EHR) system, it’s in other systems that are sitting around in the hospital,” Schmidt said. “But the work is underway and all EHR’s will be cloud based quite soon.” 

For Schmidt, cloud computing is beneficial in healthcare as it’s often less expensive and can support the massive amounts of data the industry constantly produces. 

“With cloud computing you know the system won’t fall over,” he said. 

But Schmidt doesn’t just want to store electronic health records on the cloud. He also wants to collect other clinical data from hospital systems and eventually all clinical data in the healthcare industry. 

“We’d have a much fuller picture of what’s going on in a medical care setting and that would allow us to do better data analytics, better prediction and better healthcare,” Schmidt said. 

Schmidt said he believes healthcare systems will be quick to move to the cloud if it can prove to be beneficial for the patient and doctor by saving time and peoples’ lives.

Access to more data means ‘deep data science’ can start to solve problems 

With access to more patient data, Schmidt believes computers can help the healthcare system by providing more accurate medical diagnoses for a larger group of people. 

Big data can provide better predictive analytics, he said. He said “deep data science” can be used to help doctors make better decisions.

“I want a computer to be able to say, here’s your history, here’s what we think is going on, and give advice using deep data science, doing deep predictive analytics and AI in general to predict what the doctor should do next,” Schmidt said. “I think this will lead to a revolution in healthcare in terms of productivity and most important, my health and your health and everyones.”