- Google has hired ex-Obama administration official Karen DeSalvo as its first chief health officer, further solidifying its investment in the $3.5 trillion industry by rounding out its healthcare team.
- DeSalvo, a well-respected healthcare executive and public health expert, was the acting Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS and ran the Office of the National Coordinator, which manages the nation's health IT, under President Barack Obama. She has spent the past two years teaching at the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School.
- The news comes just two weeks after the Mountain View, California-based tech giant snapped up another high-profile healthcare player, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, to oversee strategy and policy across its health subsidiaries, Verily Life Sciences and Google Health. Califf and DeSalvo will start later this year.
Dozens of health IT, policy execs and academics applauded the move, taking to Twitter to congratulate both the company on its choice and DeSalvo on her new position.
— Aneesh Chopra (@aneeshchopra) October 18, 2019
It's been roughly a year since Google hired ex-Geisinger CEO David Feinberg to helm health strategy at the internet-focused tech company amid rumors Feinberg was heading to Amazon. Well-known and respected healthcare executives have been jumping ship to join outside entrants with the heft (and pocketbooks) to lure them, and the hope they'll be able to enact more positive change from outside the traditional industry.
Feinberg has been working to coordinate health initiatives across Google properties like Google Brain, Google Fit, Nest home automation, and the company's artificial intelligence business, Google DeepMind. DeepMind announced earlier this year its technology could spot acute kidney disease two days before clinicians in a potential major breakthrough for artificial intelligence, though the application potential of the tech for diagnostics is likely years away.
DeSalvo, who was already an advisor on Verily's board, will report to Feinberg in her new role, advising him on providers, doctors and nurses (and other healthcare professionals) across the Verily and cloud computing businesses. She's previously held positions on the boards of payer Humana and real estate investment firm Welltower, and has served as a commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission since 2018.
Google's parent company, Alphabet, saw revenue of $38.9 billion in the second quarter of this year, up almost 20% year over year. It doesn't break down profits by industry, but Verily was a major driver of growth in the company's non-Google units.