The New Yorker author, surgeon, Harvard University faculty member, and health policy adviser Atul Gawande told the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) today that checklists could help improve the quality of health care and lower costs. PCAST members seemed enamored with the idea of standardizing treatment and procedures, and also discussed how to raise the academic status of those working in the field. But another PCAST member—Google CEO Eric Schmidt—saw what Gawande was peddling as a potentially lucrative new market for the search engine giant. Here's Schmidt's dream of what a visit to the doctor will look like in 2015. It came during a question-and-answer session following Gawande's 15-minute presentation, drawn from his new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. You can judge for yourself whether it's sensible or scary.
“My question has to do with the model of health care that we'll be facing in 5 or 10 years,” Schmidt began. “It's pretty clear that we'll have personalized health records, and we'll have the equivalent of a UPC sticker with your medical history. So when you show up at the doctor with some set of symptoms, in my ideal world what would happen is that the doctor would type in the symptoms he or she also observes, and it would be matched against the data in this repository. Then this knowledge engine would use best practices, and all the knowledge in the world to give physicians some sort of standardized guidance. This is a generalized form of the checklists that you're talking about.”