October 9, 2023
5 minute read

Unlocking Healthcare Transformation: A Journey with Dr. Simon Kos

Dr Simon Kos, a seasoned expert in medicine and technology and valued mentor with the Australian Clinical Entrepreneur Program, delves into the integration of digital solutions in healthcare. He highlights challenges, future advancements like generative AI, and the important role of mentorship programs like AUSCEP.
Unlocking Healthcare Transformation: A Journey with Dr. Simon Kos
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Published on
May 14, 2024

I expect new models of care like telehealth, remote patient monitoring, precision medicine and value-based care to dramatically improve our cost-to-outcome ratio, underpinned by the same technologies we see across our digitally enabled society.

I’m fascinated by generative AI lately. In my day job at Microsoft, I’m seeing applications of this innovation across all industries, and it’s a big part of my role to help figure out how it can be used healthcare. It’s early days but already I’m convinced this is a high potential game-changing technology here to stay.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your background?

I’m an Australian born and trained medical practitioner, but I’ve been full time in digital health for more than 20 years. I’ve been at Microsoft for more than a dozen of those years in various roles, including the global chief medical officer based in Seattle. I’m currently the CMO at Microsoft ANZ, where I advise our internal health team, external partners, and spend a lot of time in the industry with health leaders driving digital change. I love hanging out at the beach with my family, computer gaming, and travel.

Working within the healthcare system as a doctor I saw mistakes and errors that I know technology can address.

I’ve matured in my thinking that EMRs will solve all problems, to now appreciating that we need a broad portfolio of technologies from a whole ecosystem of providers working together to make digital transformation really work in healthcare. I spend my days educating myself about how other industries might have addressed these challenges, building awareness across the health industry, working with partners to make capabilities, and working with healthcare providers to bring potential to life.

What was the catalyst moment for you to get involved in entrepreneurial healthcare?

My first foray into entrepreneurship was when I retrained in software engineering to learn how to code an electronic medical record. I knew nothing about business however, so I ended up working for existing EMR providers driving that change. I’ve also been a start-up CEO much later in my career, when I wanted to broaden my skillset beyond being a specialist in digital health. These days I like to think I give back as an advisor, board member, and start-up mentor.

What has been your journey to date? Why are you now considered an expert or mentor in the field you are in? 

My career journey has had three distinct phases, where I try to find the right skills/experience for the right role at the right company. Initially I was a doctor at NSW Health, then a technologist at EMR companies, and finally business leader in big tech focused on healthcare. Now that I speak clinical and technical and business I am well suited to an industry executive role at Microsoft. I get to work across a broad range of providers in the ANZ region, see a lot of successes and failures, and like to think I can signpost for others some of the things I learned through experience.

What do you believe are the most critical healthcare challenges today?

The biggest problem in healthcare today is sustainability. I don’t mean the environment, although that’s important too. I mean the fact that we are using a last century health paradigm of treating sick people in hospitals, when the burden of disease is chronic illness. That’s best addressed at home in the community with improvements in health literacy, risk factor modification, early intervention, and chronic disease management. Yet we haven’t invested enough in prevention, so our hospitals are swamped with demand and it’s totally overwhelming our workforce.

How do you envision the future of healthcare?

Now that we’ve largely done the hard job of digitising our health system (turning paper into digital) I think the future is all about transforming care. That means using the data we collect for analytics and AI, and improving the experience of healthcare for clinicians and consumers. I expect new models of care like telehealth, remote patient monitoring, precision medicine and value-based care to dramatically improve our cost-to-outcome ratio, underpinned by the same technologies we see across our digitally enabled society.

Why did you want to become a mentor in the AUSCEP program?

I wanted to become a mentor in AUSCEP because I had been a mentor in the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme for years. I love giving back, because mentoring is a two-way street and I’ve learned so much in the process. Secretly I also think that Australia has some of the best talent in the world and I want to see us shine!

What do you think the benefit is of the AUSCEP program for clinicians looking to pursue an entrepreneurial career?

The value AUSCEP brings to clinicians interested in entrepreneurialism is a safe place to learn business fundamentals we don’t teach to clinicians. Through a structured process we go through aspects of IP and law, sales and finance, marketing and social media. We do it in a just-in-time approach as clinicians develop their ideas, and we deliver the course with seasoned industry practitioners active in the field. It’s the course I wish existed when I was exploring my interest in digital health all those years ago.

Which participants or innovations have sparked your interest or excite you?

I love the diversity of ideas in the AUSCEP programme. From sustainable scrubs to burnout counselling, digital startups targeting patients or clinicians, genetics and mental health. Each of those paths benefit from a common foundation, and reinforce others with their learnings. I’ve been especially enthused to see graduates from cohort 1 now giving back to our second generation of entrepreneurs in cohort 2.

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