Massive Data Presents Challenges and Opportunity

Posted June 10, 2019

Toby Cosgrove
Rob Jensen, AAMI President & CEO, and Toby Cosgrove, executive advisor for Google Cloud.

In the final Main Stage presentation of the AAMI Exchange, Toby Cosgrove, executive advisor for Google Cloud and the former president of the Cleveland Clinic, discussed the growing challenges that healthcare and health technology industries face in managing enormous amounts of healthcare data and knowledge.

According to IBM, the total amount of healthcare knowledge will soon double every 73 days.

“It’s both a problem and a tremendous opportunity,” Cosgrove said, and he envisions that the only way to manage, process, and utilize that data will be to move it into the cloud, bringing full device interoperability within reach.

To take healthcare—and healthcare technology—into the data-driven future, Cosgrove stressed the importance of encouraging innovation, particularly among clinicians who are at the forefront of patient care. Unfortunately, they are not usually in a strong position to innovate.

“For something to be proven to become the standard of care takes 13 years, that’s the half life of a doctor, and there are lawyers out there who can’t wait to get their hands on you if you try something different,” said Cosgrove, a cardiac surgeon who holds 30 patents for medical and clinical products.

“Doctors haven’t been selected or trained to have an original thought,” he said. “We’re terrible at trying to be innovative.”

While it’s important to dream big to meet the challenges of the data-driven future of healthcare, Cosgrove cautioned innovators who may have a Silicon Valley mindset to completely overhaul or “disrupt” healthcare. Those declarations demonstrate a lack of understanding of how the system really works—many of healthcare’s most expensive challenges are mundane and resistant to rapid change.

“Everyone would like for us to cure cancer. But we have problems that need to be solved as trivial as trying to schedule appointments,” Cosgrove said. “Do the work to understand the problems instead of standing up and saying you’ll fix the ‘whole thing.’ Because you can’t.”