The former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic has some surprising advice for Google’s cloud team

Nov. 5, 2018

Toby Cosgrove has a new job.

After decades running the Cleveland Clinic, he’s helping one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent technology companies figure out how to sell its technology and services into healthcare.

Cosgrove announced earlier this year that he’s taking a position at Google as an advisor to the Google Cloud healthcare and life sciences team.

Surprisingly, he’s not fighting to win large cloud contracts at the largest hospitals.

That’s because most hospitals have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars into on-premises IT systems from companies like Epic Systems and Cerner, including installation, upgrades, and training. At Cleveland Clinic, for instance, Cosgrove was one of the first big customers to invest in Epic Systems’ electronic medical record software.

Cosgrove doesn’t see these companies moving their entire infrastructures to a hosted cloud system like Google Cloud, or the more popular rival products from Amazon and Microsoft.

Instead, he wants to figure out what kinds of apps can be built on top of these systems to help hospitals start to modernize.

In his view, the “killer application” for healthcare is voice for applications like transcribing physicians’ medical notes, which leverage technologies like machine learning and natural language processing. (Cosgrove isn’t involved, but another Alphabet team, Google Brain, is looking at doing just that).

Cosgrove thinks it’ll take time before hospitals and smaller clinics across the country are using voice technology as a mainstream application, whether it’s from Google or an enterprising start-up.

Beyond voice, there are a few other areas that Cosgrove views as “low-hanging fruit” where technology companies can make an impact.

“What hospitals are looking for is something that’s going to help the efficiency and help the hospitals by the taking the costs out”, he explained. “Where can they do that? First of all there’s a screaming need to handle all of this data and certainly we’re not efficient in running data centers.”

Another is what he calls the “two bookends of healthcare,” meaning getting patients in for appointments and sending out bills.

“You should be able to automate that somehow,” he continued. “The getting in to see a caregiver and getting a bill out are two of the screaming needs that have to be addressed.”

His new colleagues at Google are behind him—and on board with that strategy.

CNBC has the full story

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