Big Data, Big Biology, and the ‘Tipping Point’ in Quantified Health: Takeaways from Xconomy’s On-the-Record Dinner

4/26/12Follow @bvbigelow

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offer experiences that people embrace, and I think the way you do that is by starting really, really simple.”

Topol also raised another key issue—cost—saying technology innovations almost invariably increase the cost of health care.

“I had a really interesting dinner last week with Bill Gates,” Topol said, “and I was shocked because he was questioning all this stuff. He was saying, ‘Show me where it’s going to cut costs.”

“The only thing that’s ever proven to save costs is something that’s been preventive—so things like vaccines and pap smears,” said Drew Senyei of San Diego’s Enterprise Partners Venture Capital. “Prevention is the only way we’re going to bring costs down.”

“The cost of being able to match a [person’s disease] to a drug is much less than the actual cost of the drug itself,” said Shawver. “And the most expensive drug is the one that doesn’t work. Often times people go from drug to drug to drug in a trial-and-error approach that adds a lot to costs. But it the past, the ability to gain [personalized genetic] information has not been cost-effective.”

The cost issue is important, but a pilot program that demonstrates the potential of quantified health could open the way for more ambitious efforts, said Peter Ellsworth, president of the Legler Benbough Foundation, a $35 million fund that awards grants to improve the quality of life of in San Diego. Ellsworth, who retired in 1996 after a 10-year reign as the CEO of Sharp Healthcare, says a successful demonstration also could help lower the competitive tensions between San Diego’s three rival health systems: Sharp, Scripps Health, and the UC San Diego Health System.

“If somebody is doing something and people like it, and there’s some publicity, pretty soon, the others will come along,” Ellsworth said. “I think the technology really does offer us something that we haven’t had before, because we’re going to be able to demonstrate things we were never able to do before.”

Rivalries between doctors and healthcare systems also could become less relevant as people generate more of their own health data from devices like Fitbit and BodyMedia, said Smarr. He estimates that 25 percent of all medical test data now resides outside the confines of health care systems, and that it is only going to increase. So now is the time to start thinking about the scale of quantified health and how it’s going to work.

“We’ve got to find a way to make your own data transportable, and we’ve got to have the legal reforms so that … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Great article and one that touches on a very important topic for Digital Health.

    Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto recently launched centre of personalized genomics and innovative medicine (CPGIM) which is aims to enables and promote the implementation of personalized health care approach to the diagnosis and treatment of hereditary diseases. The program aims to link the patients, physicians and researchers together to share date and disseminate information.

    It is all exciting work towards getting the most out of “big data” and “big biology”

    For more on CPGIM – http://innovativemedicine.ca/