Mary Meeker: Digital health is at "an inflection point"

By Jonah Comstock
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Mary Meeker's Internet Trends Report is a massive slide deck that the noted investor and Kleiner Perkins analyst presents every year around this time. The report, which details internet trends across all sectors and industries, has something of a mythic status in the tech world because of the way that Meeker draws together facts, figures, and statistics into a powerful narrative that explains where the internet is now and where it's likely going next.

In the past the report hasn't placed a lot of emphasis on the healthcare sector. Not so this year -- Meeker headlines her 31-page healthcare section by saying healthcare is at a "digital inflection point".

The reasons for this inflection point are manifold, according to the report. First of all, there's more and more healthcare data being generated thanks to the rising provenance of wearables and connected health trackers. And there's other types of data proliferating as well: more kinds of lab tests are available than ever before, and it's easier than ever before to have one's genome sequenced and get health insights from the results.

There's also an increase in what Meeker calls "digitally native health-related data sets", which means basically that more and more people are using health apps and those apps are creating new kinds of datasets. And even hospital originated data is increasing with more use of EHRs. Meeker cites IDC data showing that a typical 500-bed hospital now contains 50 petabytes of data.

So why is all this new data important? Meeker predicts that it will lead –  and is in fact already leading –  to more and faster clinical trials and publications, and a general acceleration of the accumulation of medical knowledge. As we build up more data, we could even replace some longitudinal trials with mathematical models and simulations to address the problem of clinical trial lag times.

Meanwhile on the consumer side, with 88 percent of consumers using at least one digital tool for their health, that enthusiasm will lead to faster innovation cycles and a rapidly changing face of healthcare delivery. Technology adoption curves get faster with every new innovation, and Meeker sees digital health going the same way.

You can read more, including some observations about the genetic testing space, at KPCB's site.