ESI Team

How AI Will Transform Healthcare

May 17, 2023
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On the 23rd episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, hosts Evan Reiser (Abnormal Security) and Saam Motamedi (Greylock Partners) talk with Claus Torp Jensen, Chief Innovation Officer, EVP of R&D and Technology at Teladoc Health. Previously, Claus was the CTO at both CVS Health and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In this conversation, Claus shares how Teladoc harnesses technology to transform patient outcomes, how to build a culture of innovation, and AI's potential to revolutionize health care.

Claus's current employer Teladoc Health exists at the intersection of healthcare and technology. For over 20 years, it has helped digitally connect patients to providers in addition to an ever-growing range of virtual healthcare services. Over time, Teladoc has expanded its offerings to patients and currently provides services to tens of millions of people worldwide on the platform. Claus explains that the technology aspect relates to the scaling: "About 90 million Americans have access to our services…The next stage of transformation is, 'I now have to do this on a large scale.' It's not enough to throw people after it anymore… Inside our whole platform sits a pretty sophisticated logistical engine that manages who's available, what are the credentials? What states are they allowed to practice in? How do we manage all the virtual visit rooms? If you think about it, it's really about empowering the person that needs care to do the scheduling." 

Since its inception, Teladoc has been mission-focused on innovating in the healthcare industry, which at the patient level is notorious for a labyrinth of hoops to jump through in an increasingly complex landscape of providers, insurance companies, and more. Claus shares two areas where Teladoc is having a measurable impact on patient experience: patient identification across time and harnessing patient data to help inform better health decisions. As it relates to patient identification, Claus points out that since many patient's providers and insurance information connect to their jobs, and jobs often change, keeping patient information up-to-date is a real challenge: "How do you leverage statistical analysis, pattern-making algorithms, and analytics to say 'welcome back?' When you see someone that comes in from a different provider, a different employer, that's a hard problem. And it's not something that you see, you just expect that of course Teladoc will recognize me…so that's another example of something that's hidden under the covers." 

The second area revolves around harnessing patient data to help inform better health decisions. Claus describes it as a "combination of data science and behavioral science." Like many forward-thinking companies, Teladoc is training behavioral models with reams of patient data in an effort to provide patients with more directed and beneficial health advice. But, most importantly, by building custom profiles of each patient, Teladoc can go beyond the more basic clinical advice and tailor suggestions and advice on a much more personalized level: "We have a big amount of data to train our models and build out exactly what would be the best possible health action…It is highly personalized because it's not just what the clinical science says, but it is very much how you fit into life circumstances and increase the affinity to take action."

As it relates to expanded roles for artificial intelligence in healthcare, Claus is tremendously excited and optimistic about the future. While there's endless chatter and hype around generative AI capabilities, Claus sees a different form of AI providing outsized benefits for patients and providers alike: "If you look at what healthcare actually needs, we need something that allows us to have a meaningful conversation about what's going on. So a generative model is great for learning, for guidance, for trying to just understand what's going on in my life. But you also need to say, 'what can you put into a local environment that gives you the ability to predict that something is about to happen?' Now we're talking predictive models, and those are a different class of machine-type intelligence." 

Currently, Teladoc is helping patients with diabetes stay up top of their health as they live with the disease, including personalized tools and support to track blood sugar, develop healthy lifestyle habits, and improve glycemic control. Claus shares a hopeful future where AI algorithms play an even more significant role in improving the lives of newly diagnosed diabetics: "Let's say that you're feeling dizzy, you measure your blood sugar, and it's low. Then you ask yourself, 'What's the next thing that will happen?' What should happen is that there's an algorithm somewhere that flags the fact that there's a data point that this individual has dangerously low blood sugar and is a newly diagnosed diabetic. Why don't we call them and see if they need help, which in this case they do, because they're not sure what to do, and you can help guide them to what they should do." While generative models like ChatGPT take up much of the current AI zeitgeist, predictive models in the future may have the ability to transform how health outcomes unfold in real-time. 

As a seasoned technology executive, Claus has considerable experience in leading his teams toward innovations that have a meaningful impact on the world. As a result, he's developed a unique perspective on innovation that technology leaders across industries can learn from. As he puts it, "Innovation doesn't come in one shape, size or form…and companies aren't innovative, people are. So the best way of continuing to have a rich set of innovations is to think about 'how do I bring my innovative self to work every day and be thoughtful and conscious about the choices I make?'" With that intentionality in mind, Claus takes a hands-on approach to building that culture within the team and makes personal trips to every one of Teladoc's major sites every six months to give seminars on innovation and how the team's goals for the year fold into that: "I've actually made a principle out of championing people-centric activities across my organization. Because the biggest amplifier you have for an R&D organization is to get your people to be more effective in driving innovation and transformational change."

Since Teladoc exists at the intersection of technology and healthcare, Claus's R&D organization has the sole purpose of using technology to help people lead healthier lives, and the importance of his work is not lost on him: "If we can find ways of applying either existing or borderline technologies in people's real lives, that is a meaningful innovation that I think matters to society way more than many of the other things we could do." It's something he doesn't take lightly, and throughout his career working as a technologist in healthcare, he's seen it up close and personal. When asked about his career more broadly, Claus shares a perspective that should be the envy of anyone: "When I join an organization, I try to help actually create meaningful change in the world outside whatever organization I work for."

Listen to Claus's episode here and read the transcript here.