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Topol says machines will be vital to healthcare transformation, new doc-patient partnership

September 6, 2012 5:05 pm by | 7 Comments

Prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla may end up ruffling a few feathers after he recently likened what doctors do to witchcraft and predicted that technology will replace 80 percent of a doctor’s expertise in the future.

Khosla was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems before becoming a successful VC. So when it comes to technology and the future, people pay a lot of attention to what he has to say.

Khosla made these comments in his keynote speech at the Health Innovation Summit hosted by Rock Health last week as doctors in the room reportedly sat in stunned silence when he challenged them to disprove his arguments.

One healthcare VC who also has a degree in medicine tweeted:

But a practicing doctor, prominent cardiologist, technology evangelist and author of the Creative Destruction of Medicine, Eric Topol disagreed without showing a sense of outrage. Topol tweeted:

On Wednesday, in response to questions, Topol expanded on his thoughts regarding Khosla’s view of healthcare and medicine in an e-mail.

We are completely aligned on the need for radical transformation of medicine via technology–including digital, genomics, imaging–(my book Creative Destruction of Medicine). But we differ on whether this will lead to a massive 80% [replacement] of the physician work force. I believe we have no shortage looming, as so many have projected–because of the great innovations that empower consumers with their own precious data, and the new model of patient-physician partnership will evolve.

He concluded by adding that he wasn’t offended and that Khosla is a “friend and provocateur.”

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Arundhati Parmar

By Arundhati Parmar

Arundhati Parmar is the Medical Devices Reporter at MedCity News. She has covered medical technology since 2008 and specialized in business journalism since 2001. Parmar has three degrees from three continents - a Bachelor of Arts in English from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India; a Masters in English Literature from the University of Sydney, Australia and a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. She has sworn never to enter a classroom again.
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7 comments
LanceKManning
LanceKManning

@vkhosla statement is similar to one made by @claychristensen six years ago at a healthtech event.  "Hospital's as we know them will become extinct."  Gasps from the crowd were followed by his explanation of technology trends, patient empowerment, and economic dynamics.

 

Automation in healthcare -whether in the areas of diagnosis, treatment, or prevention - will eliminate inefficiencies where human activity or oversight is no longer necessary (the OR of the Future).  However, humans WILL NOT be engineered out of the loop.  Technologies will make their jobs easier so that they can make important decisions and not be distracted by low value or mundane activity. 

 

Just like supplemental technologies in other industries (air travel, manufacturing, finance), healthcare has and will continue to embrace "semi-automated" improvements.  These improvements will impact the number of people needed to complete specific tasks. 

 

If you doubt this type of impact, you should examine why the State of California has approved experimental self-driving cars@GoogleAuto.

aparmarbb
aparmarbb

@EricTopol Thanks for tweeting my story.

msaeedMD
msaeedMD

@Paul_Sonnier @erictopol @vkhosla perhaps 1st step will be to narrow performance & knowledge-base gap between bottom 20% and top 20% of MDs

1CharlesH
1CharlesH

@Paul_Sonnier #tech is cool, but does @vkhosla believe 80% of teachers can be replaced by robots/machines? #healthcare cc @erictopel @bijans

CurryJazz
CurryJazz

@EricTopol @vkhosla - efficiencies can be realized w Health Tech but replacement never. It's akin to saying VCs can be replaced w algorithm!

stevedarden
stevedarden

@1CharlesH @Paul_Sonnier @vkhosla @EricTopel @bijans @1CharlesH Their role will be more like personal tutor. Only the VERY BEST should teach

Paul_Sonnier
Paul_Sonnier

Provocative Question: What's the population % of US farmers today vs the pop % in the 1920s? @1CharlesH @vkhosla @EricTopol @bijans