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Can a single number paint an accurate picture of health? This company thinks it can

May 6, 2021, 9:14 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers.

Peter Ohnemus is, by his own admission, a bit of an odd cookie. The founder and CEO of digital health platform Dacadoo has taken three separate companies public in Europe with plans for yet another IPO in his current labor of love. He also does things like implant chips into himself to keep a record of glucose levels that he hopes can eventually be leveraged into tracking other biometrics (seriously).

Ohnemus and I spoke at length today about his ambitions for digital health, and his goal is just as simple as it would be transformative: Break down human biology into an easy-to-understand “Wheel of Life” base score that incorporates everything from your daily physical activity to your sleeping habits. (It also ranks you anywhere from 1 to 1,000. The lower your score, the higher likelihood that you’re about to drop dead.)

This information can be pulled in via smart devices or collated from existing electronic health records, which becomes much more convenient for a company like Dacadoo given its key relationships with insurers and health providers around the world.

“We currently have 35 of the top 100 life and health insurance companies as clients, and they have under contract 200 million individual lives,” Ohnemus tells me. “And we are planning to get at least 10% to 20% of those lives covered.” Put another way: The firm thinks it can get anywhere from 20 million to 40 million people to use its services via these partnerships, which encompass giants like Cigna, UnitedHealth, and major health companies across Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

The concept of digitizing health certainly isn’t new. Heck, you can read a headline more or less every day about a new “game-changing” company in the space. But Ohnemus says Dacadoo has a secret sauce which blends artificial intelligence with its industry alliances.

The ability to converge both existing, static data from medical records while also using machine learning to keep tabs, and offer advice, on best medical habits is a two-pronged approach that’s at the crux of digital health firms’ ability to make a difference. And that’s precisely what the company has set out to do.

“Everything is on a Microsoft Cloud, a private cloud. It’s available all around the world,” says Ohnemus. “So we have our own data center in America, we have our own data center in Asia, and we have our own data center in Europe. So we run 24/7. We run it like a stock exchange.”

Like any founder, he believes this is just the beginning. But that roster of health care partnerships is nothing to shake your head at.

Read on for the day’s news, and see you again next Thursday.

Sy Mukherjee
sy.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

Is big tech really our health savior? File this one under, let's start a provocative conversation. It's no secret that tech giants such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook have been veering into the health care lane. These titans come with promises of revolutionary technology that can address many of the inefficiencies and transparency dilemmas in medicine, especially during a pandemic. But how effective are they, really? And what's their staying power? That's the question at the heart of this HealthLeaders piece on the effect the tech industry has had in California health care. I'm sure readers will have plenty of opinions on the substance, but it brings up some crucial points. For instance: "These are companies that are profit-driven, with shareholders. They're not accountable to the public," says Flojaune Cofer, a former state Department of Public Health epidemiologist and senior director of policy for Public Health Advocates. "We can't rely on them helicoptering in. What if next time it's not in the interest of the business or it's not profitable?" (HealthLeaders)

INDICATIONS

How will COVID vaccine patent waivers actually work? The Biden administration made a gigantic global health splash on Wednesday when it announced it would waive intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines in order to give a lift to developing nations. My colleague Grady McGregor spoke with Bryan Mercurio, an expert in trade policy and pharmaceutical patent law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on what to expect. "There's still a long road ahead. I have to say a lot of articles I read today just assume, okay, now the U.S. has entered into these negotiations, so it's a done deal," Mercurio says. "That assumes that every other country who was against this is now just going to follow the U.S. and that their worries and concerns about the order don’t remain. I still am pretty skeptical that we will get anything this year. I suspect that the details will get in the way of the idea, and the [World Trade Organization] will delay a final decision for quite some time." (Fortune)

THE BIG PICTURE

The 11 states leading the vaccination sprint. Now here's some good news: We are now at the point where 11 U.S. states have more than 50% of their populations immunized. 148.6 million Americans have received at least one COVID vaccine dose and more than 107 million are fully immunized. Those are some truly remarkable numbers. (And, furthermore, companies like Moderna and Pfizer are quickly expanding into younger patient populations and the vaccines may be authorized for everyone over 12 years old in just weeks). On a purely percentage basis, New Hampshire is doing the best in its immunization campaign with more than 61% of the population having received at least one dose. California has cleared the 50% mark as a much larger state, and Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and much of New England are also at that threshold.(Fortune)

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