Geisinger CEO Feinberg packs for Google months after shrugging off Amazon
- Geisinger President and CEO David Feinberg will reportedly lead health strategy at Google. The move comes after he turned down a high-profile job earlier this year leading the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-J.P. Morgan healthcare venture.
- Feinberg will be tasked with pulling together and coordinating health initiatives across Google's properties such as Google Brain, Nest home automation and Google Fit, according to CNBC. He'll report to Google's artificial intelligence head Jeff Dean but will work closely with CEO Sundar Pichai.
- Feinberg took the reins at Geisinger in 2015. It was reported that he turned down the job with Amazon out of a desire to remain loyal to Geisinger and see the hospital's current initiatives through. Geisinger confirmed Feinberg's exit, telling Healthcare Dive it has named executive vice president and chief medical officer Jaewon Ryu as interim CEO. Feinberg will remain with Geisinger until Jan. 3.
Feinberg will have a lot to work with. Google, through parent company Alphabet and life sciences arm Verily, has been relatively secretive about explicit healthcare ambitions, but there's clear interest in the space. The tech giant has invested in methods to help stop the spread of infectious diseases, voice technology to help doctors as well as patients and numerous AI projects. Google-owned connected home device company Nest has also shown health sector ambitions.
Under Feinberg's lead, Geisinger has prided itself with being a leader in vertical integration and at the forefront in efforts to treat patients through population health efforts and the latest in technology. The company made a splash earlier this year when it announced patients would receive whole exome sequencing at no cost. It has joined other high profile organizations in efforts to improve interoperability and diagnostic accuracy among other ambitions.
Throughout those initiatives the nonprofit has boasted relatively rosy financials. Geisinger saw revenue increase nearly 9% to $5.1 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal year compared with the same period a year ago, fueled by a 4.6% gain in patient service revenue and a 13% bump in premium revenue.
In speaking to Healthcare Dive recently, Feinberg was wary of revealing too many details about his decision to turn down the job leading Amazon et al's healthcare company earlier this year. That job ended up going to Harvard surgery professor and New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande.
"I'm a good guy and I don't like to kiss and tell. I wish that organization the absolute best of luck," Feinberg said. "I never said anything. The media said stuff and I put out one statement. So I don't want to get into it — some of it is fake news and all that."
Perhaps the "fake news" was a reference to the reports of Feinberg wanting to stay at Geisinger.
Regardless, after three years in Danville, Pennsylvania, Feinberg will be heading back to Southern California. The soon-to-be Google executive spent most of his career (over two decades) at UCLA Health, having worked his way up from being a medical director at the university's Neuropsychiatric Institute to taking on the role of CEO in 2008. He was given full reign over the company in 2011, assuming the title president as well as CEO, before moving on to Geisinger.
That might be language Feinberg would protest, as he says he prefers a lead-from-behind style of management.
"I don't think I lead [Geisinger]. I think I'm at the bottom of the org chart," he told Healthcare Dive. "I think really, who leads our organization is our patients and members and those that touch them directly. The rest of us are here as support staff."
Worth watching is how Feinberg's leadership style will fit in at Google, where he'll be competing with Silicon Valley tech executives who arguably tend to drift more toward high-profile thought leadership than behind-the-scenes redistribution of credit.
Feinberg will also be in direct competition with the very company he turned down earlier this year. In conversation with Healthcare Dive, the executive spoke highly of Amazon, BH and JPM and compared their yet-to-be-named company to Kaiser.
"If you look at Kaiser's history, it started in the same way. Kaiser, which was making ships, said, 'We think healthcare is too expensive.' They got out of the ship business and obviously have been doing really well in the medical business," he said. "The Kaisers today are certainly Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, and that they are saying healthcare is too expensive and not easy to use and we want to fix it and start with our own workers is phenomenal."
At Google, Feinberg will be reunited with his former Geisinger chief of emerging technology, Gregory Moore. Google picked up the informatics pro earlier this year along with a number of other prominent healthcare executives, including Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove for Google Cloud and University of Chicago Medicine's former chief quality officer Michael Howell for Google Research. Verily has also been tapping talent, including University of Illinois head Dimitri Azar, Brigham and Women's Hospital cardiologist Jessica Mega and University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee.
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