It’s plain to anyone who has visited the doctor that medicine’s relationship with information technology is tenuous at best. Merely hoping to have a timely email exchange with a physician can be an exercise in futility.
My ears perked up, then, when Bernard Tyson, CEO of the 11 million-member Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, known as Kaiser Permanente, bragged last week that more than half of Kaiser’s interactions with its patients are virtual. Kaiser’s doctors use smartphones, kiosks, video conferencing, and other tools to “see” patients when a physical visit isn’t necessary. Tyson says the traditional health care system is organized to “fix” patients. Because vertically integrated Kaiser makes money whether or not it treats its patients, its incentive is to keep customers healthy as much as to cure or mend them.
To a patient, the virtue of avoiding an office visit before refilling a routine prescription, for example, is obvious. Only an insane insurance system, which Kaiser sidesteps by owning its own hospitals, would think otherwise.
This frustrating conundrum is but a tiny example of the revolution happening because information technology finally is having a meaningful impact on health care and medicine. Controversy will follow. Over the weekend venture capitalist Vinod Khosla angrily swiped at competitor Marc Andreessen for misrepresenting Khosla’s perspective on the future role of doctors. Andreessen, interviewed on the impact artificial intelligence will have on medicine, said Khosla believes “doctors are going to go away.” Khosla promptly republished a lengthy treatise that suggests technology will enable doctors to refocus 80% of their time on the “human aspects” of practicing medicine.
It is a near certainty that tremendous good will come from the likes of Andreessen and Khosla bickering with each other—with each investing according to their respective theses.
As it happens, Fortune has a contribution to make to the discussion. On the first two days of November, in San Diego, we are hosting the inaugural Brainstorm HEALTH conference. As my pal and conference guiding light Clifton Leaf has written: "We'll probe the potential of all this new medtech, challenge orthodoxy, poke a few sacred cows, and do a fair amount of big-sky dreaming about what's possible—and what ought to be.”
This conference is an exciting extension of our Brainstorm franchise, and like our other conferences, attendance at Brainstorm HEALTH is by invitation only. But if your world overlaps with the program—view the preliminary agenda here—we welcome your application.
Have a healthy week.
BITS AND BYTES
Samsung's second Galaxy Note 7 recall isn't going well. The South Korean has halted production of the smartphone, again, after reports of fires in the replacement batch. U.S. carriers participating in the recall, including AT&T and T-Mobile, said they've directed staff not to issue new Galaxy 7 phones to owners seeking an exchange. Those customers will need to opt for a different smartphone model until Samsung resolves the safety concerns. (New York Times, Wall Street Journal)
Twitter takeover talks fizzle. The social media company cancelled a special meeting last Friday to discuss potential bids, reports Bloomberg. The move came after three high-profile potential suitors—Disney, Google, and Salesforce.com—got cold feet. (Bloomberg, New York Times)
Oracle's $9.3 billion buyout of NetSuite is in jeopardy. The software giant is giving shareholders until Nov. 4 to tender their stock. This is the second, month-long extension. Oracle needs 20.4 million shares to seal the deal, but only about one-quarter of that amount has been tendered. NetSuite's biggest shareholder T. Rowe Price Group thinks Oracle's offer undervalues the company. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Twilio files for secondary stock offering. The software company filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell another batch of Class A shares worth $400 million. Most of them are owned by existing shareholders. (VentureBeat)
This software could make flying less miserable. New York's JFK Airport is using a new predictive analytics system, called Beontra, to coordinate 32 airlines and more than 20 million annual flights in its newest terminal. Among other things, it uses data about schedule changes and passenger habits to help the TSA, airlines, and immigration officials make better staffing decisions. (Wired)
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Jack Ma's latest business partner is Steven Spielberg. China's top tech titan is making a minority investment in the acclaimed director's production company, Amblin Partners (formerly known as DreamWorks Studios) through Alibaba Pictures. The underlying intention is to co-produce movies for both Chinese and global audiences. (Fortune)
Yahoo faces more anti-male discrimination claims. Aside from concerns over cybersecurity policy, Yahoo's buyer Verizon will inherit another thorny legal matter. A second former executive is suing the Internet company, accusing two female managers in the Yahoo media organization of a pattern of bias against men. (Ars Technica)
WATCH FOR IT
A guide to this week's Apple-Samsung ultimate legal showdown. On Tuesday, the country's top court will hear a long-running feud between Apple and Samsung over the design of the iPhone. The stakes are high: $400 million, an important intellectual property law issue—and a lot of pride for two corporate rivals and the consumers who love them. Apple won a separate $120 million last Friday that involved three software patents, including the "slide to unlock" feature.
The spat began in 2011 after Apple's late founder Steve Jobs declared "thermonuclear war" against the Android operating system that powers Samsung smartphones, and will likely end next year.
Here's a plain English guide to the case based on interviews with patent experts, lawyers, and sources close to Apple and Samsung.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Dreamforce Explores the Ridiculous, the Sublime, and the Somewhat Scary, by Barb Darrow
Slack's CEO Suggests Bots Are Overhyped, by Robert Hackett
An Apple a Day: A Time for Reflection, by Don Reisinger
Facebook's Events Feature Gets Its Own Standalone App, by Leena Rao
ONE MORE THING
There's reason so many computer voice assistants sound like young women or British butlers. Science, stereotypes, and regional preferences are just three of the factors that play in the speech patterns used by a digital persona. Plus, why the voice given to the IBM Watson analytics software is an exception. (New York Times)