Can my Fitbit predict a coming heart attack?
That was the subject of the breakfast session I attended this morning at Fortune Brainstorm Health in San Diego. And as it turns out, the short answer to the question is “no.” Heart rhythms, as measured by a Fitbit or other wearable device, don’t give any indication of a coming heart attack. But there are proteins in the blood that do, and the day may soon come when a nano-sensor implanted in your blood stream could provide early warnings, perhaps by as much as two weeks. (Read about Fitbit’s unrelated stock swoon yesterday here.)
That’s the sort of discussion that characterized Brainstorm Health, which brought together denizens of two very different worlds – the world of information technology and the world of bioscience. The differences between the two are legion – Mars and Venus – but they appear to be starting to come together in ways that could utterly transform health care in the years ahead. That’s why at Fortune we intend to make Brainstorm Health an annual event, and why we’ve started the Brainstorm Health Daily email, which you can subscribe to here.
One notable difference between the two worlds is the existence of Moore’s Law, which has meant computing power has increased geometrically while its price has plummeted. Health care operates on the inverse principal – “erooM’s Law,” Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan Kettering called it – where prices soar far faster than any measurable improvement in quality can justify.
Will the convergence of IT and bioscience bring Moore’s Law to health care? That was the topic of a panel I moderated with Dr. Bach, Steve Miller of Express Scripts, and Vijay Pande of Andreesen Horowitz. The answer to that question seemed to be “maybe” – but not in a big way any time soon. The peculiarities of the U.S. health care market, as well as the heavy hand of regulators, seem likely to insure that the marriage of computer tech and biotech will require a very long and arduous courtship.
One telling indicator of the long road ahead came from Athena Health CEO Jonathan Bush, who told the group his clients “still get 8 million faxes a week…. Who sends faxes?”
More news below.