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Why You’re the Reason For Those Health Care Mergers

March 19, 2018, 5:33 PM UTC

Look closely at the prominent wedding announcements in the healthcare industry of late—pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts to insurer Cigna; insurer Aetna to drugstore chain CVS; Flatiron Health, a technology platform company that mines medical records, to pharma giant Roche—and you’ll find a common link: You.

That’s right—you, dear reader, are the dowry in all of these arranged marriages—or, specifically, the data within you is. “Your individual biology, your health history and ever-fluctuating state of well-being, where
 you go, what you spend, how you sleep, what you put in your body and what comes out”—that rich-but-messy heap of information, more than anything else, is what’s driving these companies together, write Erika Fry and Sy Mukherjee in their terrific cover story for Fortune’s April 1 issue (“Big Data Meets Biology”), which we’re posting online today.

“The amount of data you slough off everyday—in lab tests, medical images, genetic profiles, liquid biopsies, electrocardiograms, to name just a few—is overwhelming by itself,” they write:

Throw in the stuff from medical claims, clinical trials, prescriptions, academic research, and more, and the yield is something on the order of 750 quadrillion bytes every day—or some 30% 
of the world’s data production. These massive storehouses of information have always been there. But now, thanks to a slew of novel technologies, sophisticated measuring devices, ubiquitous connectivity and the cloud, and yes, artificial intelligence, companies can harness and make sense of this data as never before.

“Up until three- to- five years ago, all that data was just sitting there,” says Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. “Now it’s being analyzed and interpreted. It’s the most radical change happening in health care.”

I love this story—and not just because Erika and Sy have done such a marvelous and comprehensive job of reporting it, interviewing more than three dozen experts from across the spectrum of the healthcare industry. Even more compelling to me is how these data analytics are empowering patients and their families…not in some distant future, but today.

Sure, there’s a corporate gold rush for these biological bits and bytes—a multibillion-dollar race to dominate the health dataverse. But somewhat lost in all of this business wheeling and dealing is the fact that the balance of power in medicine is shifting: Armed with their body’s own endless stream of signals and a smartphone, many individuals are getting the information they need to take charge of their health and wellbeing—or, in the case of Theresa Beech, whose 13-year-old son was lost to cancer two years ago, to help total strangers search for a long-elusive cure.

Today, alongside the debut of this Fortune cover story, we kick off our third annual Brainstorm Health conference—which embarks on the very same crusade: to reveal how a revolutionary kind of analytics and other technologies are together solving some of biology’s deepest, darkest secrets. During our two-day exploration, sponsored once again by our founding partner IBM Watson Health—we’ll see, hear, and feel how profoundly powerful this new data science can be, particularly in the hands of people like Theresa Beech.

We’ll talk with many of the corporate execs who are leading the charge—from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini to Flatiron’s Amy Abernethy to Watson Health chief Deborah DiSanzo to Neusoft Corporation’s Jiren Liu to Accenture North America CEO Julie Sweet. We’ll probe the sector’s savviest investors, far-seeing physicians and scientists, and fearless entrepreneurs.

And to top it off, we have two in-depth conversations on the lineup that promise to be unforgettable. Tonight, “CEO Whisperer” Tony Robbins opens up to physician David Agus about his own private pain—and the life-changing lesson he drew from it.

And tomorrow, for our closing keynote, Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington talks with our now-no-longer-surprise guest—four-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant—about the technology (and strategy) that’s fueling his life and game.

We’re live-streaming much of this conference, so for those of you who can’t be here, please join us by way of webcam. Hopefully, we’ll see you in person next year.

This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.