Former Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove on AI, data and joining Google

CLEVELAND — Toby Cosgrove, the former Cleveland Clinic chief executive who is now executive advisor to Google Cloud Healthcare, discussed artificial intelligence, the ongoing data explosion and why he joined Google here at the HIMSS and Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit on Tuesday.

“With every new technology, there’s a good side and there’s a problem; there’s always a downside,” Cosgrove said. “But the upsides way outweigh the risk.”

AI and emerging tech

Acknowledging that healthcare has yet to master cybersecurity, Cosgrove saw big strides in other areas, pointing to artificial intelligence, biometrics and voice technologies as holding considerable potential. 

As one example, he noted that retinal scanning technology can now make 60 different diagnoses, all done autonomously. Another promising example is technology that can take a user’s verbal description of a picture and discern from the voice if that person has a neurological disease or if they’re on drugs.

“Eventually, we’re going to have scribes to listen for your voice and (determine) the important things that need to go in your history during a physical without a doctor writing it down,” Cosgrove said. “Think how silly it will look 50 years from now that we spend our time typing.”

Time to kick it up a notch

Cosgrove added that AI, biometrics and other emerging technologies will help address the industry’s major issues around cost.

To take advantage of those opportunities, however, health systems have to undergo digital transformation and decide where to focus resources.

“Hospitals are going to have to up their capabilities,” Cosgrove said. “Things are more secure in the cloud. Last summer all the major tech vendors came together and said,’If the data is in the cloud we’ll share it.'”

On joining Google

“When I finished (working at Cleveland Clinic) I began to think about where healthcare is and where it’s going,” Cosgrove explained. “We are swimming in data. The total amount of data and healthcare knowledge is doubling every 73 days.”

He said that the problem companies like Google and Microsoft are working on is how to store that data, categorize it and analyze it.

“The good side is you can begin to mine it and always learn something,” Cosgrove said. “Imagine what we could learn from 300,000 or 1 million patients?”

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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication. 

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