As the tech giant aggressively pursues the health market, Google has hired former Obama administration health official Karen DeSalvo as its first chief health officer. DeSalvo spent the past two years teaching at the University of Texas at Austin’s Dell Medical School. Her appointment comes after Alphabet selected former FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf to head up the firm’s health and strategy policy, CNBC reported.
DeSalvo will advise Google on doctors, nurses and providers through the firm’s cloud unit as well as the Verily life sciences arm, where she has served on its advisory board. In the past, DeSalvo served as assistant health secretary and national coordinator for health information technology in the Health and Human Services Department for President Barack Obama.
Google and its parent company Alphabet have been investing widely in the health industry, focusing on spaces such as strengthening its cloud computing business to serve more life sciences firms and researching new drugs and devices. In 2018, Google hired David Feinberg to lead the company’s expansion into the healthcare space.
Feinberg, who had served as Geisinger’s chief executive, has been consolidating teams throughout the company with the inclusion of its artificial intelligence (AI) division, DeepMind, and its hardware unit. DeepMind, for instance, recently announced that its technology can predict if a patient has potentially fatal kidney injuries 48 hours prior to the time that doctors can recognize symptoms.
In January, news surfaced that Toby Cosgrove, an executive advisor to the Google Cloud healthcare team, believes that data and AI have the power to advance the healthcare system. He said in a December interview with CNBC, “As you look at healthcare, we have got a problem and a curse in the fact that we have an explosion in the amount of knowledge there is in healthcare. For example, there are 5,800 medical journals that are turning out 800,000 articles a year. There’s an enormous amount of data, and it’s a problem for us to keep track of, and that’s why I think the cloud is going to come in.”