Roni Zeiger, M.D.
Former Head of Health Strategy, Facebook/Meta | Former Chief Health Strategist, Google | Co-Founder and Former CEO, Smart Patients
Dr. Roni Zeiger works at the cutting edge of technology, healthcare, and human experience. As the former Head of Health Strategy atFacebook/Meta, the former Chief Health Strategist at Google, and the founder of Smart Patients, Roni's experience in digital health makes him one of the foremost speakers on how technology continues to transform modern healthcare.
Artificial intelligence sits at the forefront of the current era of technological transformation and Roni believes the healthcare industry is uniquely poised to adopt it. Viewing AI as "the best assistant to ever exist," he speaks to the ways that AI can relieve providers of the burdens of cumbersome clinical documentation and assist with the diagnostic process, thereby redefining the patient-provider interaction, boosting productivity, and alleviating burnout. Roni also envisions a "renaissance of creativity" inmedical education with AI tools giving students access to dynamic clinical contexts from day one of training.
Roni’s decades-long career in healthcare has been punctuated by the idea that when patients, doctors, and researchers all work together, learn from each other, and strive to understand the ways each of us is an expert of their own experience, we can make better science happen faster. Early in his career as a medical interpreter, he become acutely aware of the many instances of failed communication between doctors and patients and learned that patients typically remember only 25% of what doctors communicate. He has since remained a vocal advocate for the ways that technology and online communities can help to bridge those gaps.
In his role as Google’s Chief Health Strategist, he developed innovative digital medical services including Google Flu Trends andSymptom Search. He then founded and lead Smart Patients, an online peer support community where patients, families, and caregivers learn from each other about treatments, the latest science, and how it all fits into their experiences.
During his time at Smart Patients, he witnessed Facebook Groups unintentionally become one of the world’s largest online health support communities. Leveraging his expertise in patient communities, he joined Facebook as the Head of Health Strategy with the goal to enhance the impact of these organic groups and guide the company’s further efforts in the health space.
Shortly after stepping into this new role, the COVID-19 pandemic began and his focus shifted to helping control misinformation and working with global public health experts to center accurate information on the platform. He has since left Facebook/Meta and now advises health systems, non-profits, and companies on emerging technologies, online communities, and online behavior change campaigns.
Roni has written and edited several medical textbooks and has published articles on topics including continuing medical education, clinical decision support tools, and searching for health information online. Roni is also the creator of McGraw-Hill’s Diagnosaurus, an app and online platform that helps clinicians and trainees perform and learn differential diagnoses.
Dr. Zeiger practiced primary care and urgent care medicine for two decades, earned his M.D. at Stanford University and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of California, SanFrancisco. He has served as a clinical instructor of medicine atStanford University School of Medicine and received a master's degree in biomedical informatics from Stanford.
How Technology is Shaping the Future of Medicine
Technology is changing the landscape for patients and for physicians faster than ever. Patients no longer just have the Google search box, they have smart phones, wearable activity trackers, and home genetic testing. Physicians have electronic health records, decision support systems, and e-visits. The biggest challenge — and opportunity — is that physicians also have patients with all these new tools. Roni Zeiger is an innovator in health technology and a practicing physician who understands the reality of patient care. His experience as Google’s Chief Health Strategist and in the startup world of Silicon Valley give him a unique perspective on the technologies that are poised to change the way physicians practice and how they interact with patients. His ongoing practice of medicine helps him distinguish the hype from the innovations that are changing medicine in meaningful and often challenging ways.
Technology and Joy in the Practice of Medicine
While technology promised to make clinicians more productive, it often has the opposite effect. It doesn’t have to be this way. As we await more dramatic improvements to our electronic health record systems, we can use them more efficiently and mindfully. If we reimagine healthcare to be about communication (and not documentation!), we can redesign our practice to maximize quality time with patients and quality interactions with colleagues. Doing so allows us to focus more on the connections which represent the sources of joy and satisfaction that drew us to the practice of medicine. New technologies like Google Glass and embedded sensors, as well as ubiquitous technologies like secure messaging, can be creatively utilized to fundamentally change our professional experience. The health of our patients depends on our ability to improve the wellbeing of our clinicians. Thoughtful use of technology can help us achieve both.
Improving the Patient Experience AND the Clinician Experience
Recent trends and government incentives have made improving the “Patient Experience” a focus area for many healthcare systems. These efforts are appropriate and necessary. They are also fundamentally incomplete. How can we expect clinicians and staff to prioritize patient safety and patient satisfaction if the organization doesn’t first commit to improving clinician and staff safety and satisfaction? Fortunately, these efforts are complementary. Both involve using simple technology to facilitate peer support, mentorship, and ongoing measurement of progress. For patients and families, this results in improved satisfaction and loyalty. For clinicians and staff, these efforts decrease burnout, improve patient safety, and remind us how collaborative teamwork not only improves outcomes, but makes our work more meaningful and satisfying.
The Networked Future of Medicine
From decision support systems to Google Glass, networked technology is disrupting the practice of medicine. Physicians are increasingly interacting with each other and the rest of the health care team via electronic health records. E-visits and telemedicine are redefining the boundaries of the of the doctor’s appointment. Data relevant to all of these interactions is flowing from wireless devices that can measure blood pressure, glucose, exercise, and more. And patients often discuss such data, and what questions to ask their physicians, in online communities. These networked technologies represent a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality of medicine. They are also an unstoppable disruptive force that needs to be understood and incorporated into practice in a cost-effective way that works well for both patients and physicians.
How Patients Find Health Information — and Each Other — Online
We are transitioning from an era where doctors wonder if their patients are searching online to one where patients wonder if their doctor is reviewed on Yelp. Based on his experience as Google’s Chief Health Strategist, Roni Zeiger shares the wide variety of online resources patients are using, from traditional portals like WebMD, to PubMed and clinicaltrials.gov and online communities. Such communities add a complex social dimension to every other source of information, where it’s not just about content, but discussion of how that content fits into each patient’s illness and preferences. What do patients and their families want from their providers, their insurers, and from researchers? This presentation offers an understanding of how this dynamic online landscape is changing patient education and the patient’s relationship with the health care system.
It’s no longer realistic for a clinician to tell a patient to not Google their condition. At the same time, problematic information online has become more widespread and nuanced, with bad actors having increasingly sophisticated tools and strategies. Roni Zeiger’s experience in leadership at both Google and Facebook/Meta have made him an expert in misinformation on the web and in social media. This presentation addresses the types of misinformation patients (and clinicians) typically encounter, how we can best equip our patients and ourselves to navigate problematic information online, and how the healthcare ecosystem needs to address these challenges systematically.
The Future of Clinical Trials
Information about clinical trials has been available online for years, but a new breed of patients has found this data and is discussing it online. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies face unprecedented pressure to run less expensive trials as more targeted drugs will be used by smaller populations. How can we tap into the motivation of the increasingly engaged patient to help us design effective trials that they want to participate in? What does the ubiquitous availability of smart phones, sensors, and telemedicine mean for the future of distributed trials? In this presentation, Roni Zeiger addresses how these disruptive trends provide us with an opportunity to make better science happen faster and more efficiently.
The Future of Medical Education
Gone are the days where medical students learned mostly from textbooks and anatomy atlases. But medical education still relies on learning from a modest number of teachers and patients, which in aggregate comprise a small subset of what practicing physicians need to know. Continuing medical education (CME) is designed to address this problem, but it is well documented that most CME is ineffective. The emergence of online communities for physicians and patients is a model for how future medical students — and clinicians more generally — can learn from and with each other in ways that transcend their individual experiences. AI, virtual reality, and augmented reality add complementary opportunities to learn in new and transformative ways. Such approaches can also build habits and methods of learning that constitute a career-long learning process, which is increasingly important as the pace of innovation in medicine has far exceeded what any one of us can keep up with alone.
Product Design for Health
User-centered design is a product design philosophy that helps us optimize a product around what users want, instead of asking them to change how they think or behave to accommodate the product. While this approach is ubiquitous in the software world of Silicon Valley, user-centered design is not commonly used in the development of websites, software, and other products in health care. Based on his clinical background and experience building software at Google and in the startup world, in this presentation Roni Zeiger discusses how to identify problems that matter most to patients and clinicians; how to focus on your ability to uniquely address a problem that matters; how to iteratively and cheaply prototype your designs; and how to consider the complex constraints of health care while challenging all assumptions. Patient-centered and physician-centered design can help us build more successful products, from websites and software, to clinical trials and drugs.
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