Greetings from San Diego, where along with several of my Fortune colleagues I am attending the inaugural Brainstorm Health conference focused on the business of health care. We’ve assembled a collection of the finest commercially minded professionals in medicine, all of whom are exploring various ways either to cure disease or otherwise make people healthier. (Catch our coverage here.)
If there’s a consensus among the business-of-medicine types it’s that we ought to spend way more effort (and money) on the making people healthier part. David Agus, the esteemed oncologist and author (and a co-chair of the conference), says his industry needs to focus far more on preventing diseases than curing them. It makes eminent good sense to do that: stop a disease before it starts and there’d be nothing to treat. And yet, the overwhelming focus of medicine and insurance is on treatment, not prevention.
It’s a confounding problem, both in its simplicity and the paucity of fixes for it. Dana Goldman, a health economist at the University of Southern California, gives a telling example. An endocrinologist colleague told him about treating an obese patient. “The best thing for the patient would be to take him for a walk,” the doctor said. “But I don’t get paid for that.”
There are solutions. James Park, CEO of fitness tracker Fitbit, reports that companies participating in his company’s employee-monitoring program on average save $1,300 per person annually on healthcare costs. (Merely tracking employees and encouraging them to be active acts as a form of preventive medicine.)
Over the course of the conference, which ends late Wednesday, we’ll be hearing about mind-blowing innovations in medical science, in particular the ways information technology helps the cause. If there’s one thing I’ve learned already, it’s that a far simpler solution, one that requires as much of a mindset change as anything else, is staring us in the face.
BITS AND BYTES
It's a fait accompli (almost). Chipmaker Broadcom is offering $5.5 billion to buy network gear company Brocade. That's almost a 50% premium over the acquisition target's closing share price last Friday. (Reuters)
Alibaba's cloud business skyrockets. The Chinese e-commerce giant's nascent data center services division hopes to give market leader Amazon Web Services a run for its money within four years. Its 130% growth rate for the latest quarter makes that a reasonable aspiration. (Fortune, Bloomberg)
Approximately one-third of all hacking attempts are successful. A new report from technology consulting firm Accenture estimates that large organizations face an average of 100 attempted break-ins annually. The total spent each year on defenses: around $84 billion. (Bloomberg)
Apple shareholders will decide whether executive pay should be scrutinized. The Securities and Exchange says the company must allow a proxy proposal seeking a vote on whether Apple should hire an outside committee to review and reform its compensation practices. (Fortune)
U.S. chipmakers may need the government's help. As China ramps up its support for domestic chip manufacturers, the Obama administration is creating a task force to evaluate appropriate federal-level responses. The group includes Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs. (Fortune)
Facebook shares some more data center secrets. The company is contributing the design information for Voyager, the networking technology it uses to route scads of data, to an open-source industry group called the Telco Infra Project. (Fortune)
Truck-sharing startup Convoy scores big deal with Unilever. The consumer goods giant will use the service to contract smaller tractor-trailer operators to transport its goods around the United States. The contract is worth millions of dollars over the next four years. (Bloomberg)
Find out what your peers are making. Social network LinkedIn has introduced a new service that lets members compare their salary information to aggregate information about people with similar titles and responsibilities. (Fortune)
Why privacy is a big obstacle in the digital health revolution. Health care conferences can resemble pep rallies for extraordinary technological advances in medicine. That’s hardly surprising, given the promise that innovations running the gamut from fitness wearables to genome sequencing may have in delivering more personalized and efficient care.
But there’s still a gulf between today’s potential and the kind of tangible, wide-scale transformation that can turn America’s “sick care” system into one that prioritizes wellness and prevention. And bridging that divide will require a serious discussion about medical privacy and data sharing. The outlook from an expert panel at Fortune‘s inaugural Brainstorm Health conference.
More news from the event:
WATCH FOR IT
Microsoft's "Slack killer" could debut today. Microsoft is expected to unveil its take on business messaging and chat, which some are calling Microsoft Teams, on Wednesday at a New York event, according to various tech news outlets. Not to be outdone, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield will host his own briefing Thursday in the same city. (Fortune)
Anticipate another bang-up quarter for Facebook. The social networking company is projected to reach $6.9 billion in revenue for its third quarter, up more than 50% from one year ago. Most of that growth should come from mobile advertising. Expect close scrutiny of its video momentum and virtual reality headset sales, the latter of which have been slower than expected. (Recode, MarketWatch)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
SAP Announces New Benefits for Transgender Employees, by Michal Lev-Ram
Elon Musk Tries to Sell the Tesla-SolarCity Deal, by Katie Fehrenbacher
Waiting for Next Year's MacBook Pro Might Be a Good Idea, by Don Reisinger
Instagram Deepens E-Commerce Integration, by Leena Rao
ONE MORE THING
Sick of wrist-worn wearables? Musician and tech investor Will.i.am (aka William Adams) is testing a new take on earphones that he calls "buttons." When they're not in use, they can be fashioned into a necklace. (New York Times)