Saturday, December 8, 2012

Digitized Doctors, by Dr. Algo

Vinod Khosla

Machines will replace 80 percent of doctors in a healthcare future that will be driven by entrepreneurs, not medical professionals, according to Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla. Khosla, who wrote an article entitled Do We Need Doctors Or Algorithms? earlier this year, made the controversial remarks at the Health Innovation Summit in San Francisco, hosted by seed accelerator Rock Health. The article had already touched on some of the points of his keynote speech, however it was at the summit that the investor challenged a room full of doctors to disagree with his argument -- a challenge that was met with silence. (perhaps the doctors in the audience are still comatose after the Supreme Court decision to uphold the individual mandate) or perhaps they do not want to disclose the mounting insurgency of the medical profession.  Or perhaps they are thinking about “Occupy Health and Human Services. 


Khosla’s credentials are excellent as one of the founders of Sun Microsystems in 1981 where he became CEO and Chairman. In 1986, he became a general partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where he remained through the early 2000s. In 2004 Khosla formed his own firm, Khosla Ventures, which focused on venture investments in various technology sectors, most notably clean technology.

It would probably be wise for Vinod Khosla to butt out of health policy and stick to coding or selling his products from Sun Microsystems and follow our lead, not determine things that are far out of his realm of expertise.(and those are considerable.

With no qualms about offending an auditorium filled with practicing doctors, Khosla went on to refer to common medical practice as being akin to voodoo, saying "healthcare is like witchcraft and just based on tradition" rather than data driven, as he believes it should be. Machine learning, he argues, will be a more efficient, cheaper and more accurate diagnosis tool one day, leading to a replacement of 80 percent of doctors (those in the upper 20th percentile can remain, apparently). At one point, he even compares medical diagnosis to Google's driverless smart car technology, saying that the latter is more difficult to develop than an accurate diagnostics machine.

Khosla has a recognized huge conflict of interest to drive health care in his direction. (note no disclaimers appeared in his talk or literature).

Khosla has had a vested interest in healthcare for some time, having already invested in projects like AliveCor, an iPhone heart monitor attachment that he funded via Khosla Ventures. The investment firm has also poured £600,000 into the development of Cellscope, an app that transforms the smartphone into a microscope used to test for ear infections. With these tools, he is helping the industry edge towards a system that is consumer driven and competitive, where patients have more control and understanding of their own health, thus giving them more space to make informed choices about their treatment. At least this is the goal in the long term, and it's a trend we have been seeing for some time, with even the NHS stepping up and crowdsourcing consumer-friendly heathcare apps. For now, plenty of professionals have already spoken out against Khosla's dramatic proposal. However most of their contentions are based on the less than flattering view of the medical profession he is portraying that says their assistance might be superfluous in transforming the industry.

"Does innovation mean the two guys in a garage who come up with a radical idea or is it possible that innovation is having people with different experiences and points of view looking at the same problem," counters Davis Liu, a US-based GP and author, in his excellent summary of Khosla's speech. "Surely to make healthcare better, technology entrepreneurs must engage with doctors."

"There are some things that may never be codified or driven into algorthims," argues Liu. "Call it a doctor's experience, intuition, and therapeutic touch and listening. If start-ups can clear the obstacles and restore the timeless doctor-patient relationship and human connection, then perhaps the future of healthcare is bright after all… I know healthcare can't simply be solved by smart people in Silicon Valley alone. To solve healthcare we need everyone to collaborate."  We begin our Journey


If nothing else, talks such as these do mobilize the base of physicians, nurses and most caregivers who ask, “ Can the algo feel emotion or care ? Can the patient develop ‘transference to the algorithm and it’s hardware wrapping?


The Surprising Path Of Artificial Intelligence                                           More background on Vinod Koshla


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