For Google Inc. (NSDQ:GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt, fixing healthcare is a matter of scale.
The chief executive of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company, which has made of business out of attempting to amass all information that’s available digitally, told an audience at the JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) Healthcare Conference that "the biggest and easiest thing to do" to improve patient outcomes is to make healthcare IT systems interoperable.
"We would make a lot of progress if we simply took all the large IT systems that exist today, that have a very large amount of patient information in them, and got them to be interoperable," he said.
"And [we] were able to use that to, for example, study healthcare outcomes, comparative effectiveness, training and so forth. That’s a relatively easy set of things to do if you just allow the interoperability to occur."
Schmidt added that one of the major barriers to healthcare IT is simply getting doctors to use it, and to overcome that hurdle he endorsed the formation of standards and the incentives that the government has adopted.
Schmidt also chided the audience — or, perhaps, the industry — for their point of view on healthcare.
"The problem that I have with all these conversations is that we end up talking about the incumbents and not patients," he said.
The ideal scenario, he said, is a patient-centered-outcome system.
An over-riding principle of the conference is that patients are consumers. According to Schmidt, the healthcare industry needs to figure out a way to make make patients so excited about healthcare outcomes — essentially what people get when they consume healthcare — that they would drive behavior of the healthcare industry.
The "simple mathematical reason is that there’s more patients than anyone else," he said.
The "simple rule" of my business is that if enough consumers do something, the industry will follow.
"What do patients care about? They care about their health," Schmidt said
Schmidt was speaking on the 29-year-old conference’s first ever healthcare IT panel and was joined by Dept. of Health & Human Services CTO and Athenahealth (NSDQ:ATHN) co-founder Todd Park, U.S. government CTO Anish Chopra and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr
JPMorgan healthcare analyst Atif Frahim, who introduced the panel, told the audience that the IT panel’s late appearance in the conference’s history is related to the slow uptake of HIT relative to other innovations in healthcare.