Vivian Lee of Verily: Technology companies bring complementary strengths to health care

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President of Health Platforms at Verily says same tech that helps consumers organize their photos also can help them track their health.

Technology companies such as Verily have expertise in organizing data and making it user-friendly, a strength that could aid patients trying to manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, said Vivian Lee, MD, PhD, President of Health Platforms at Verily.

Dr. Lee, who was a keynote speaker at the Center for Connected Medicine’s Top of Mind 2019 Summit, said that some of the same technology that allows consumers to organize and identify photos can be applied to helping diabetics track their food choices and learn how different meals affect their blood glucose levels.

“The technology sector really brings, in my view, a broad range of deep expertise that is highly complementary to the rest of the health care landscape,” Dr. Lee said during an interview with the CCM during the Top of Mind 2019 Summit.

What would Vivian Lee fix about health care?

Dr. Lee, one of several high-profile health care executives to join Verily and Google in the past year, also discussed misaligned incentives in health care. Google and Verily are sister companies under Alphabet.

Asked what one thing in health care she would fix, Dr. Lee said there is a great need to align payments in health care with the value that patients receive.

“What I mean by that is what we value is better health outcomes, access for the population, resource efficiency, meaning lower costs, and we need to be rewarding and paying systems and companies and businesses for delivering that,” Dr. Lee said in the interview with the CCM.

Helping diabetics control their blood sugar

Dr. Lee joined Verily in May 2018, after serving for six years Dean of the School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. She holds a doctorate in medical engineering from Oxford University and a medical degree from Harvard. Dr. Lee is not the only high-profile health systems executive to make a jump to the tech sector. Last year, David Feinberg, former Geisinger Health CEO, and Toby Cosgrove, former Cleveland Clinic CEO, were hired by Google for various health care-related ventures.

Verily is developing tools and platforms to enable more continuous health data collection that provides for timely decision-making and effective interventions. One such project, Onduo, is a joint venture between Verily and drug-maker Sanofi that focuses on diabetes.

Dr. Lee explained during her keynote talk at the Top of Mind 2019 Summit that Onduo is giving diabetic patients a continuous glucose monitor that links to an app. Patient also use the app to take pictures of their meals. The app recognizes foods, and coupled with the patient’s glucose level data, identifies meals that cause spikes in blood sugar.

Patients receive health coaching through Onduo to change their diets and better control glucose levels. And there are no costs to the patients, Dr. Lee said.

“It’s bold for a tech company that has never done this before to do that,” Dr. Lee said during the Summit. “But I think if we’re really all about value let’s just put our money where our mouth is.”

More from the Top of Mind 2019 Summit:

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