Former Intel Chairman and CEO Andy Grove is in the latest issue of WIRED talking about the paradoxical relationship between healthcare and technology. “We have the Human Genome Project, personalized medicine, war on
cancer, CyberKnife, stem cell research on one hand — no doctor to be
found or to take care of your sore throat on the other," Grove says. "That’s a pretty
ugly picture. It’s pretty ugly today but it’s going to get uglier."
WIRED’s Kristen Philipkoski interviewed Grove after a recent talk he gave at Berkeley. (Watch the webcast here.) The Silicon Valley legend, who Harvard Business School biographer Richard Tedlow thinks "could [probably] hold his own against Benjamin Franklin," argues that part of the answer lies in less complicated solutions than the industry is currently pursuing. "Altogether," Grove tells the magazine, "I am obsessed with doability as opposed to desirability."
Like other tech executives who have been drawn to healthcare as both a business and social issue, Grove has been thinking and talking publicly about the problem for years. Philipkoski writes that Grove’s current thinking focuses on three general areas where he thinks quick improvements might be possible:
First: Keep elderly people at home as long as possible (an idea he
calls "shift left"). Use high-tech gadgets to help them remember to
take their medicine and monitor their health. In one year, if a quarter
of the people now living in nursing homes went home, it would save more than $12 billion, Grove says.
Second, Grove advocates addressing the uninsured by building more
"retail clinics" — basic health care centers in drugstores and other
outlets that can take care of problems that are presently, and
expensively, addressed in emergency rooms.
Lastly, unify medical records using the internet. In his vision, every
patient carries a USB drive containing his or her medical records,
which any doctor can download.
Perhaps predictably, Grove is not a big fan of universal healthcare. He prefers market-based solutions and technological innovation to European or Canadian style government single-payer.
WN: Universal health care is such a buzzword these days but you clearly don’t think it’s the answer. Why not?
Grove: I’m not excited about the implementation or our
willingness or capability of implementing that concept until we figure
out … what to do with a third-party industry that all of a sudden
gets blown up, transported to the moon or whatever. (Insurance
companies) would probably be less than enthusiastic about the move.
(Insurance is) a large industry and employment for a lot of people —
like it or not it’s a real problem.
The second part is — nobody talks about it — but deciding what you
provide under this universal health care system and how do you keep the
treatment inflation from making it more and more expensive? How do you
make certain treatments available and not others … as compared to
everyone being entitled to every scientific possibility out there,
which is the current mind-set. Unless we deal with these two problems,
all we do is flagellate ourselves.