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Thousands of ATA 2012 attendees heard Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak wax enthusiastic about the future of telemedicine in his Tuesday morning keynote event.

“I love the fact that telemedicine fits into this category of people trying to do good things for those that don’t have access. I love that,” said Wozniak to applause.

”It’s kind of cool for a general doctor to get in touch with a couple of specialists this way.”

In a wide-ranging conversation onstage with ATA President Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., Wozniak predicted that computer intelligence will soon rival human intelligence – with profound implications for health care.

“Computers are getting closer to acting like humans. Your phone knows when you’re touching it now…  and I think eventually they will be listening and looking with their cameras and microphones… You can make devices that see better than a human.

“Once a computer gets smarter than a human, then the company that uses computers will come out ahead economically.”

Wozniak regaled the crowd with stories of his friendship with Steve Jobs and the genesis of Apple.

“I was the designer,” he said. ”I was the engineering brains. Steve had a sense for which way technology would go. He had more of the vision and the long-term thinking.  I was the one that stumbled onto a computer [design] that made things affordable.”

Asked to give advice to a filled auditorium with telemedicine scientists and entrepreneurs, Wozniak said:

“You’ve got to have somebody who’s got it in their heart to do something. Salaries and titles and yachts and money—I don’t think those are the biggest driving forces. Very personal things are what drive you hard. And I can’t think of any entrepreneurial stories that don’t feature a lot of hard work.

“Nowadays, entrepreneurship is taught like a business course, and that’s not passion-driven. Even if they can be successful, that’s not the experience I want to go through.”

Wozniak told ATA the keys to success – in any field – are the ability to persevere autonomously, without supervisors looking over your shoulder, and finding ways to innovate without resources.

“In all my A-plus work at Apple, two factors came out. One was a lack of money. Also, we had never done those sorts of things before. My ideas were always thought out fresh.”

Earlier, incoming ATA president Stewart Ferguson pledged to spearhead a new telemedicine awareness campaign. Echoing the views of Cisco healthcare leaders, Ferguson predicted fundamental changes in health care delivery worldwide.

“Health systems cannot continue to do what they’re doing and make it,” said Ferguson. “Any organization that tries to take on more without additional resources is taking on a risk… telemedicine is perfectly positioned to be part of a more efficient healthcare system.”

Ferguson said ATA must ready itself for a sudden increase in demand for telehealth solutions.

ATA 2012 continues through Tuesday night at the San Jose Convention Center. Visit Cisco at Booth 1434.

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