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There’s More to Health Care Than Clinics

What the private sector is achieving on health is way ahead of Capitol Hill.What the private sector is achieving on health is way ahead of Capitol Hill.
What the private sector is achieving on health is way ahead of Capitol Hill.Fortune

President Trump is pushing to get a health care bill through the House this week, but ended the day Tuesday without sufficient votes. Even if he succeeds in getting the bill passed, it will be rewritten in the Senate. And even if it becomes law, it will be re-litigated in next year’s congressional elections, with even moderate Republicans fearing Democrats will use it successfully to bludgeon them. In short, we are still nowhere near a stable solution to our health care problem.

But while Washington chases its tail, the private sector races ahead. I’m at the Fortune Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego, and it is bracing to hear of the rapid pace of innovation driven by the collision of traditional health care with digital technologies, big data, and cognitive computing. The rapid advance of diagnostics, the onslaught of genetic technologies, the rise of telemedicine, etc., are rapidly remaking clinical health care.

What’s most striking about this year’s dialogue, however, is how much of it is not about clinical care. As Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, who I am interviewing here tomorrow, told me recently, clinical care is only responsible for about 10% of health care outcomes. Much more important are behavioral and environmental factors.

That’s why Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison and Tyson Foods’ CEO Tom Hayes were on the stage today, talking about the role of food in health care. Or why there is a session on sleep tomorrow morning. Or why Arianna Huffington moderated a panel with Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh, IBM Watson chief Deborah DiSanzo, and JPMorgan Wealth Management CEO Barry Sommers talking about vacations, martial arts, and meditation as keys to good health. It all made me happy to be spending this coming weekend at Health magazine’s Total Wellness Weekend at Canyon Ranch.

Former Vice President Joe Biden ended the day, talking about the Biden Cancer Initiative. Asked by Dr. David Agus why he was doing it, Biden answered: “A purpose-driven life solves a lot of problems. It just seems like…what Beau would want me to do. And it matters.” He also said the fight against cancer “is the only non-partisan initiative left out there.”

You can read more coverage of Brainstorm Health here.