Mary Meeker is a venture capitalist with the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and is known for her intensive and extensive annual presentations on Internet Trends. In her report this year, she spent a portion of her presentation on the impact of the Internet on healthcare, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
The key premise of her presentation was that healthcare is undergoing a massive shift. 100 years ago, healthcare largely consisted of direct human interaction between a physician and patient. By 25 years ago, this process relied heavily on the assistance of analog devices to help the human healthcare worker interact with the patient. Today, that has shifted from analog to digital technology, which has many implications.
For example, medical imaging has gone from 2D analog (such as X-ray films) to 3D digital (such as CAT scans). Blood pressure has gone from a manual analog device to an automated digital device that records and transmits the results. Digital monitors have become wearable and wireless, making it possible to monitor patients and record important data remotely. The increased data is making healthcare more effective and efficient. Electronic health records — in spite of all their problems — are making valuable information available to more healthcare professionals faster, which leads to better treatment and outcomes. This also makes the information more accessible by patients through health portals, which leads to better patient engagement and participation in their own health management.
The Internet and digitally-connected devices also make it far easier to recruit and monitor subjects for clinical trials. This has resulted in nearly five times more registered trials per year over the past 10 years. These trials are producing better results sooner, which reduces their cost and speeds new products and treatments to market. And Big Data analytics are now used to simulate clinical trials using enormous databases of historical data, reducing the time needed for a typical trial from 7 years to just two months. In a test of this approach, one system was able to predict the results of four actual trials precisely in two cases, within the margin of error for a third, and only slightly below the margin of error for the fourth.
The presentation also highlights the need for healthcare organizations to be able to handle rapidly growing data collections securely, and the impact of low-cost genetic sequencing on personalize medicine. It is clear that we’ve reached an inflection point, and the future of healthcare will be shaped by connected digital products and services.