Ep023: Dr. Roni Zeiger on Patients as Micro-Experts

By March 21, 2017Podcast

My guest today is Dr. Roni Zeiger – a physician turned entrepreneur who was the former Chief Health Strategist at Google.  Currently, he is the co-founder and CEO of Smart Patients – an online community where patients and their families learn from each other. Roni has been a leading voice for patients having shared his views across prominent stages like TEDMED.

On today’s episode, we get up close and personal where Roni shares his journey from a practicing doctor to leading the charge in health at Google. We discuss the importance of rapid experimentation and willingness to fail along the way.  Roni also shares key intrapreneurial lessons learned from his tenure with Google, including those associated with Google Flu Trends and Personal Health Record; and how that ultimately helped shape his networked community model for his current venture, Smart Patients.

All this and more on today’s episode. Now, That’s Unusual.

About Dr. Roni Zeiger

Roni Zeiger, MD, MS, is the former Chief Health Strategist at Google. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Smart Patients, an online community platform where patients and families affected by a variety of illnesses can learn from each other’s knowledge and experiences. Roni earned his M.D. at Stanford University and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco. He has served as a clinical instructor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and received a master’s degree in biomedical informatics from Stanford. Roni is also a Community Staff Physician for urgent care patients at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Key Interview Takeaways

Find the intersection of what you do best and what you care most about, and do that. There are no rules when it comes to careers; if you are creative and lucky enough, you can figure out how to do what you love for a living.

Innovations happen at the intersections of industries. Zeiger’s specialty came from thinking about how consumer technology could be applied to medicine.

Get comfortable operating in the face of uncertainty. Zeiger’s experience at Google coupled with his background in medicine have taught him that we are always learning and may never get the answer to a difficult problem exactly right.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, the best way to start is through intrapreneurship. The culture at Google encouraged every employee to innovate and start new business entities, and Zeiger credits this practice with giving him the courage to develop Smart Patients.

Disruption and transformation will come from both existing players within the health care industry (i.e.: Pfizer) and future competition from outsiders (i.e.: Google). The players have different core competencies, different risk tolerances, and different degrees of willingness to experiment.

Peer-to-peer support is an underutilized resource in health care. Smart Patients seeks to connect patients and families who are going through similar things as they build an online community and support system.

Offering peer support empowers patients. Asking patients what they know results in the “best ever patient advisory board,” and doctors have begun to prescribe peer support as part of a treatment plan.

Because humanity is a “connected mess,” our most important attributes need to be defined by others. What each of us is individually doesn’t matter nearly as much as how we’re connected to each other.

Connect with Roni Zeiger





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