Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 07, 2012

Healthcare Investor Raises the Ire of Doctors When He Says 'Medicine Equals Voodoo'


When you think of witchcraft, what comes into your mind? If you said medicine, you’d be on Vinod Kholsa’s wavelength.

The accomplished Silicon Valley investor compared modern healthcare to witchcraft at a recent Rock Health conference, inciting doctors to rage at him, and almost go ballistic when he also said technology will replace 80 percent of doctors. Rock Health is an investor in start-ups focused on health care.

Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and one of the most successful investors during the Internet boom of the late 1990s with his backing of networking equipment companies, said that medical tradition “has mired doctors in voodoo-like practices,” according to a story by Matt Marshall.

Marshall reported that Khosla said that machines, “driven by large data sets and computations power, not only would be cheaper, more accurate and objective, but better than the average doctor.” And where did he get that 80 percent?  “To get there, the level of machine expertise would need to be in the 80th percentile of doctors’ expertise, he said,” Marshall noted.

Wired’s Thomas Goetz also interviewed Khosla, Marshall added, who tossed out this even more incendiary thought, “Eventually, we won’t need the doctor.” Pointing out that Khosla wasn’t all wet, Goetz reported that Khosla has had a vested interest in healthcare for some time, “having already invested in projects like AliveCor, an iPhone heart monitor attachment that he funded via Khosla Ventures,” and that the investment firm has also poured a little under $1 million into the development of Cellscope, an app that turns the smartphone into a microscope used to test for ear infections.

“With these tools, he is helping the industry edge towards a system that is consumer-driven and competitive, where patients have more control and understanding of their own health, thus giving them more space to make informed choices about their treatment,” Goetz wrote.

“Did anyone disagree?” Khosla asked at the talk. There was silence, however, critics reading about his talk commented on it online. Marshall revealed that Columbia University-trained doctor Bijan Salehizadeh said he was “nauseated” by Khosla’s remarks.

While Khosla’s remarks made sense to some - that doctors are too enmeshed in the current system to see clearly and medicine does need disruption.

David Shaywitz, M.D., writing at Forbes.com, said, “He seems to believe that the most successful disruptors of healthcare will likely have experience in technology and entrepreneurship, and some idea of how to apply this to health.” 

Forbes was one of Khosla’s most vocal critics, as it felt there was some merit to what Khosla had to say. “You’ve got to be an idiot not to see that the system needs serious change.”

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli





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