Word from the C-suite: 'Algorithms will drive future health gains'

Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine, believes further advances in medicine and health will be tied to medical professionals' ability to interpret massive amounts of data.

Since taking over as dean of Stanford's medical school, Dr. Minor has established a department of biomedical data science within the medical school and announced a partnership with Google. He said his efforts are part of a larger belief that the future of medicine lies in personalized health, which focuses on prediction and prevention. Dr. Minor recently sat down with The Wall Street Journal to discuss the how the medical school has begun to integrate data science and medicine to mitigate hospital infections transmitted through poor hand washing.

"We know that a lot of hospital infections are transmitted by our hands and hand washing can be tedious, but it is extremely important. So we began a project with the folks in computer science to develop an AI-based system that can look at the hand-washing stations outside of an ICU room and determine when a person has washed their hands. The interlock on the patient's room is only opened and triggered when a person has gone through the appropriate hand washing. Now, it can be overridden if there is an emergency. But if it is overridden it gets recorded and there needs to be an explanation of why it was overridden. I was skeptical at first. I thought you could fool it by … not actually rubbing  your hands. Well, it turns out to be pretty darn good … [the technology] is being piloted in the ICUs but not yet driving the opening and closing of doors. The technology is validating that the hand washing is taking place and we are getting feedback from others on how it works."

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