What is the physician’s role in a future driven by AI?

Gus Venditto | March 30, 2019

Key Takeaway: AI and machine learning will change traditional medical practices in ways that health CEOs will need to understand.

Few people have made the case for AI in medicine more passionately than Vinod Khosla.

For several years, Khosla has made compelling arguments for greater investment in smarter diagnostic tools and artificial intelligence software. He has even explored the question of whether AI-inspired solutions will bring about a future where the average doctor won’t be needed.

With out-sized successes in launching major startups (Sun Microsystems, NexGen, Juniper Networks and others), Khosla has proven he has an intuitive understanding of what technology can accomplish. And with a large portfolio of investments in healthcare startups, he is making a strong commitment to shape the future he envisions.

Khosla will be sharing his latest thoughts on the topic at Health Evolution Summit 2019 in a conversation with Molly Coye, executive in residence at AVIA, in the session “The Great Beyond: Technology + Humans Deliver Health.”

While his opinions can come across as extreme, it is hard to question Khosla’s commitment. In his writings and public appearances he comes across as fully engaged in a mission to improve the quality of healthcare while solving the dilemma of how to pay for it.

In a recent talk at Stanford University he attributed his early interest in healthcare to philanthropic intentions. He tried to estimate the cost of bringing an American level of healthcare quality to his native India.

“I asked myself, how many medical schools would you have to open, how many professors would you have to train to teach at those schools … to reach parity? And I realized that even if you have infinite resources in the next 30 or 40 years, you couldn’t possibly provide the level of healthcare when measured by the number of physicians per thousand of population.”

He came to the realization that he was trying to solve the wrong problem. As he looked at technical advances — the growing body of personal health records, the improving performance of diagnostic equipment and advances in machine learning — he concluded, “We don’t need humans to do medicine.”

His firm, Khosla Ventures, now has more than 30 investments in the health space. They include OSCAR (a provider of health insurance), eGenesis (a life sciences company leveraging CRISPR technology), Deep Genomics (developer of AI technology for genetic therapies), and AliveCor (a smart phone app / device for clinical-quality ECGs).

Khosla is not advocating a future of machines dispensing pills. He has written that the time of physicians can be better spent working with the results of smart diagnostic tools.

In his widely read article, “Do We Need Doctors or Algorithms?” he wrote, “What is important to realize is how medical education and the medical profession will change toward the better as a result of these trends. The vision I am proposing here … is one in which those decades of learning and experience are used where they actually matter. We consider doctors some of the most learned people in our society. We should aim to use their time and knowledge in the most efficient manner possible. And everybody should have access to the skills of the very best ones instead of only having access to the average doctor.”

The conversation will take place on Friday, April 12, 2019 at 8:30 on the main stage.


About the Author

Gus Venditto, Staff Writer