Coverage & Commentary

Self-driving care

On my daily jog the other day, with my daughter in a stroller and my dog in tow, I came to my usual stop at the crosswalk of a four-lane road without a light. Traffic moves quickly on this street, and cars typically don’t stop to allow us to cross unless I make direct eye contact with a driver. It usually takes a while to get the chance to cross.

But this day was different. A futuristic vehicle making its way down the street slowed to a controlled stop the moment I approached the edge of the street. It was my first brush with one of Google’s self-driving cars. Despite this car never having encountered my particular combination of dog, stroller and runner, it stopped as if it had seen me a thousand times before and knew my intent.

As I waved to the engineer inside and continued on my way, I started thinking about how the information and skills that self-driving vehicle systems must share represent compelling models and lessons that might be adapted to my own field — healthcare.

In healthcare, learning networks and sharing have always been underpinnings of the profession. Presently, efforts focus on developing what are called “Learning Health Systems” (LHS). These are representative efforts to innovate within a legacy structure, but often leverage antiquated communication and coordination tools to share learnings with other care professionals. Thus, they do not push the thinking far enough, nor leverage the technology of our time…