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Brainstorm Health Daily: June 1, 2017

Good morning, readers. This is Sy.

Making sure the poor have access to health care is a difficult prospect even in advanced nations like the U.S. In low-income countries with few resources, it can be a near impossible feat. But what if a digital health education platform could revolutionize the way medicine is taught and delivered in the most rural, isolated settings—and wind up saving 30 million lives in the process?

That's the ambitious goal set out by 2017 TED Prize winner and Last Mile Health CEO Dr. Raj Panjabi (who is also on Fortune's list of World's Greatest Leaders and was one of the featured participants in the FORTUNE + TIME Global Forum at the Vatican last year). Fortune got an exclusive first look at Panjabi's TED Talk from April, which was released to the public this morning, and where he laid out the promise of community health workers to "save the lives of 30 million people by 2030" by learning 30 life-saving medical skills, such as how to administer vaccines and monitor blood sugar.

Panjabi's nonprofit, Last Mile Health, has already demonstrated how these community workers can change the face of rural health by giving people easily-accessible primary care in regions where you may have to trek for two days to find a clinic or doctor. The group trained 10,000 workers who went door to door in Panjabi's birth country of Liberia to help stem the spread of the Ebola virus during the 2014 outbreak. The Liberian government has been pouring more resources into training these community health professionals since then, Panjabi noted in an interview with Fortune.

As a $1 million TED Prize recipient, Panjabi got to make a wish for the world: "Help us recruit the largest army of community health workers the world has ever known, by creating the Community Health Academy, a global platform to train, connect and empower," he said during his TED Talk.

This Community Health Academy would be a digital hub that could be used to scale community health worker training so that interested locals wouldn't have to journey by canoe just to get to a training center, as one participant described by Panjabi had to. It would sit at the nexus of the digital education and community health worker revolutions, as Panjabi puts it, and allow nations like India and other African countries to bolster public health while also creating a massive number of prestigious jobs by putting basic medical accreditation within everyday people's reach.

But Panjabi acknowledges that government cooperation and private sector technological investments will be necessary to make such a system possible. Ensuring cellular and Internet connectivity so that workers can receive their training will be critical. However, as Panjabi notes, just as technology is crucial to improving public health and medical education, it can also create big new markets for medical devices and digital health apps in countries that have long been ignored.

Read on for the day's news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Outcome Health hits staggering $5.6 billion valuation. There's another paper billionaire in town: 31-year-old Rishi Shah, whose digital health startup Outcome Health creates special tablets and smart screens used for patient education and pharmaceutical advertising. The firm has reportedly raised nearly $600 million from Goldman Sachs, Pritzker Group, and other investors, pegging it at a $5.6 billion valuation (Shah's 80% stake in the company gives him a theoretical, and highly fluid, $3.6 billion net worth.) Outcome Health's large flat screens and tablets are placed in hospital exam rooms and other areas. Drug makers are particularly drawn to the technology since their products may be advertised as patients receive basic tests and treatments or are simply waiting for their doctor. (Forbes)

INDICATIONS

Mylan may have overcharged U.S. for EpiPen by $1.27 billion. A new Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General report suggests that the U.S. government may have overpaid Mylan $1.27 billion for its flagship EpiPen between 2006 and 2016 because of the way that the company classified the device. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been looking into Mylan's distribution practices since the EpiPen price hike scandal erupted. "Mylan and the Obama Administration reportedly were close to settling the overpayment for much less than $1.27 billion," he said in a statement alongside the report. "Taxpayers have a right to know what happened here and to be repaid whatever they are owed." (Reuters)

QuintilesIMS plots out the latest trends in cancer drug development. Cancer drug makers are increasingly focused on testing out combinations of powerful—and pricey—new immunotherapy products, according to a new report by QuintilesIMS. The interest is partially driven by evolving FDA regulations that make it easier for drug makers to get these kinds of therapies to market sooner. But they also come at a steep price, contributing to a $6 billion increase in global cancer drug spending in just one year. On the flip side, nearly 70 new cancer drugs have been approved over the past five years.

THE BIG PICTURE

Less than half of U.S. physicians now own their practices. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports a sea change in physician-owned medical practices. "2016 was the first year when less than half (47.1 percent) of patient care physicians had an ownership stake in their practice," wrote the doctor's trade group in its analysis. "This marked a decline of around 4 percentage points from 2014 when 50.8 percent of physicians were owners and of 6 percentage points from 2012. The percentage of physicians who were employees in their practice increased from 41.8 percent in 2012 to 47.1 percent in 2016. Thus, not only was 2016 the first year in which the owner percentage dipped below 50 percent, it was also the first year when there were an equal number of employees and owners."

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