The Healthy Crowd

We used to monitor traffic with road cameras and the occasional TV-news helicopter, but now we simply collect signals from the cellphones of millions of drivers around the world. Someday health care will be the same: we will be able to watch it unfold in real time – and see how well people get to their goals by their chosen routes.

BERLIN – I recently attended the JP Morgan health-care conference, the Davos of the medical world. And, like the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering of business leaders, the JP Morgan conference is a Rorschach blot: you find in it what you are looking for.

Personally, I am interested in how health-care business models are changing – not in a smooth trend line, but one example at a time. The change has less to do with health-care “reform” than it does with improved access to information beyond the traditional sources of clinical trials and medical billing systems. Now we can find out more about each individual patient (and ultimately aggregate data), about the use and performance of drugs and treatments out in the market (not just during testing), and even about outcomes.

In search of this theme, I met with a variety of start-up companies on the fringes of the event. (The formal program was mostly publicly traded companies talking about their earnings outlooks, with one section reserved for privately held companies.)

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