Google VP David Feinberg on Turning the Tech Giant into a Health Care Company

Feinberg said the transformation will require a new business model that does not involve ads or targeting individuals for health care services the way Google’s other businesses do today.

Key Takeaways: Feinberg joined Google because of its ability to reach billions of people. Achieving that and fixing the fundamental problems in health care, however, will require a new mindset of the company.

By Michaela Katz

When former Geisinger CEO David Feinberg, MD, left the health system to join Google, he was attracted to the company’s broad reach and the ways that can be leveraged to make more people healthier.

“There’s a fundamental problem in our health system,” said David Feinberg, MD, VP of Google Health in an interview at the Health Evolution Summit. “It’s a system that’s designed around providers. It’s designed around doctors and nurses and hospitals. Every other service industry is derived around consumers.”

It is time that companies in health care begin rebuilding the system and focusing on patient experience. But what is Google doing in the health care industry?

To some, it might seem like an odd pairing but, Feinberg said it’s a natural association. “Whether we call ourselves a new entrant or not, I think we’re already there when we look at the millions and millions of people that do a Google search for health care every day. When we look at the percentage of patients that go to Google 24 hours before any ER visit, it’s a huge number. So, we are in health care.”

Although Google may be in health care, Feinberg is hoping that he can make Google healthier. “I’m trying to turn Google totally into a health care company.”

Not surprisingly, Google as a health care company will be a completely different business model than what exists today.

“As we roll out what we think we’re going to do in the health care space, there will be no ads; there will be no targeting you as a customer,” Feinberg said. “If you’re giving us personal information, we want to have a very, very strong and easy way for you to say, ‘Okay, I’ve changed my mind. I want to pull that back.’”

At its core, Google’s impact in health will be its existing ability to reach people at scale.

Feinberg, who recently started at Google after a successful tenure as Geisinger CEO, noted the company’s large reach as something that excited him about working with Google — particularly being able to reach billions of people and treat them the way he would patients.

Feinberg added that Google’s foray into health care will bring a different type of health to people. “People actually don’t want health. They want their life to be such that they don’t have to ever worry about their health so they can get on with their life. That’s being helpful in peoples’ lives.”

Watch more episodes of the Health Evolution Interview Series. The next Health Evolution Summit is scheduled for April 1-3, 2020 in Laguna Niguel, California.  


David Feinberg, MD

Incoming CEO, Cerner

David Feinberg is the incoming CEO of Cerner (Oct 1, 2021). Previously, he headed up Google's health efforts. Before that, David was President & CEO of Geisinger, one of the nation's most innovative health services organizations. While at Geisinger, David oversaw 13 hospital campuses, a 600,000-member health plan, research centers, and various initiatives aimed at better engaging patients around their health and well being Full bio ›

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