FHC #40: How venture-backed tech is transforming U.S. healthcare

Medical professionals and budding entrepreneurs love to talk about the technologies that will someday revolutionize patient care. Our guest on Fixing Healthcare is already funding and fashioning those technologies to meet the needs of today’s patients.

Our guest, Vinod Khosla, is an entrepreneur, investor, technologist and founder of Khosla Ventures, a firm with investments in hundreds of startups across more than a dozen industries. In healthcare, Khosla has provided venture assistance to fast risers like Forward, OSCAR, ZocDoc and many others. He was also the founding CEO of Sun Microsystems.

This show features case-studies galore: From AI-driven mental health and physical therapy services to a Covid-testing product that can also screen you for the top 20 different respiratory illnesses. You’ll hear about diagnostic tools that are delivering results five-times faster and 10-times cheaper. And you’ll learn about a $28 million primary-care startup that Khosla says could be the next big thing in rural and safety-net care.

In this episode, Khosla gives advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and gets specific about the future of medicine, detailing which technologies he believes have a chance at achieving the most difficult of missions: fixing healthcare.

Vinod Khosla Interview Highlights

On tech improving global healthcare and U.S. healthcare

“I’ll try and constrain it to the US healthcare system in terms of my answers, but I think it’s globally applicable and the solutions are the same, but with a different tilt and different cultural context. In the US, we have relatively better care, but it’s expensive. My personal view, the most expensive part of the system is expertise, and expertise can relatively be tamed with technology and AI. So, not everybody in the world can get an oncologist. We can capture some of that expertise, so each oncologist can do 10 times more patient care than they would on their own without that help. That applies broadly.”

On reducing healthcare costs with technology

“I am pretty optimistic that the most expensive conditions, take diabetes, cardiology, musculoskeletal, will be done in verticals outside of the healthcare system. Can you use a Livongo or a Hello Heart to reduce blood pressure by 20 millimeters without drugs? Could you do weight reduction by 8% with a digital first offering? I think that’s starting to happen … That will start to reduce the cost, and then specialists will only be needed when the condition is severe or exceptional.”

On improving rural healthcare with technology

“Wherever healthcare depends on deep expertise, which is generally expensive, think oncologists or a brain surgeon, and you can do it remotely, care quality will improve and care costs will decline and accessibility will improve because a patient won’t have to go from that small town in Iowa to a major medical center and travel for three days for an appointment. So, I do think that will happen and will be very, very beneficial.”

The business implications of healthcare disruption

“It’ll be newer players who adapt these technologies, disrupt the price points in economics and will slowly eat into traditional systems, (which) will go bankrupt. This is the model that happened with bookstores and Amazon. The bookstores ignored Amazon for a long, long time as it slowly ate into sales with its new model. Later, they adapted this model, but mostly too late.”

On the role of venture capital in healthcare

“Look, the venture business always over invests in hard categories. The characteristic of venture startups is most will lose money, but more money will be made than lost, which says a small percentage of these will win, but the winners will make more money than the losers lose. So, net-net, broadly, if somebody’s broadly invested, they’ll do well and make money on their investment. So, imagine after 89 billion, 80 billion gets lost. That money gets lost as investments, but the 9 billion turns into 900 billion, creates another Apple or Google. That’s the model of venture capital.”

READ: Full transcript with Vinod Khosla

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Dr. Robert Pearl is the author of a new book about medicine’s invisible yet highly influential physician culture. Check out “Uncaring: How Physician Culture Is Killing Doctors & Patients.”

Fixing Healthcare is a co-production of Dr. Robert Pearl and Jeremy Corr. Subscribe to the show via Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you find podcasts. Join the conversation or suggest a guest by following the show on Twitter and LinkedIn.