Data-Driven Health: Live from the 2017 Health Technology Forum, Stanford School of Medicine
The event focused on health and wellness enhancements made possible through technology. It gathered speakers such as Vinod Khosla, prominent entrepreneur, investor and technologist, and Michael Snyder, Stanford W. Ascherman Professor, Chair of the Department of Genetics, and Director of the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine.
Our Co-founder and CEO Laila Zemrani spoke on a "Data-Driven Health" panel. The session discussed the opportunities and challenges offered by new methods and sources for incorporating more personal, longitudinal, and real-time data.
Data-Driven Health Starts with Data-Driven Prevention
The overwhelming majority (99%) of the healthcare system's resources are spent on illness. "We spend about $1 to keep someone well, and about $99 to treat them when they're sick," said Laila Zemrani. This is happening at a time when 80% of some of the most common and costly health conditions that we're seeing are are preventable. Wellness is poised to play a prominent role in health over the years to come, according to Zemrani.
So why aren't we seeing major players, such Google or Uber, in the health or wellness tech industry, asked Ernesto Ramirez, Director, R&D at Fitabase and moderator of the Data-Driven Health panel.
Data-Driven Health is a Team Sport
Aenor Sawyer, Associate Director, Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF, stressed the importance of "team work" in digital health and wellness. The panel agreed that applications of data-driven health need to be at the intersection of different disciplines, such as data science, design, business and behavioral science, in addition to healthcare itself.
Laila Zemrani pointed out that the biggest challenge facing data-driven wellness is understanding what consumers want and how to appeal to them.
Are We Only Solving the Problems of the Wealthy?
It is often argued that digital health products and services are either unaffordable or targeted mostly towards those who are already healthy (i.e. the "worried well.")
The panel offered different perspectives on the issue. For instance, Laila Zemrani argued that many technological innovations have historically been offered in the wealthiest neighborhoods and countries first. As companies achieve economies of scale and as R&D costs decrease, the innovation starts to reach a larger population. For instance, mobile phones weren't always used by women in rural villages of Kenya to conduct business and make a living.
A member of the audience argued that healthcare, unlike the mobile industry, has certain unique design challenges. Everyone agreed, however, that behavioral design will be a key component of any successful application of data-driven heath. In the words of Sawyer: "Behavioral scientists are the new heroes in healthcare."