Chief Executive Officer, Helix
Late last month, the annual Internet Trends report was released by Mary Meeker of KPCB. For many, including myself, it is considered essential reading. This meticulously prepared deck is a trove of valuable data for anyone participating in the digital economy—which, in 2018, is virtually everyone. It does a phenomenal job of distilling rapidly evolving consumer behaviors and expectations into meaningful insights that help set the conversation for the year ahead. These are exactly the types of insights that help companies like Helix deliver better products, more quickly, to the consumers who can benefit from them most.
A key takeaway from this year’s Internet Trends is the meteoric rise in the usefulness and actionability of data for creating better, more beloved interactions in virtually every part of our lives. From streaming music and video services to the smart thermostats in our homes, data is almost universally enabling smarter, better, and more personalized experiences.
This is increasingly true in healthcare, too, where better experiences are desperately needed. It’s no secret that the healthcare system in the United States is broken: costs are the highest in the world, but we don’t have the outcomes to match.
Fortunately, the United States is also home to some of the most innovative minds in healthcare, many of whom are directly engaged in addressing these problems. Personal genomics is a great example of how technology and science are coming together in tangible ways to change the equation for outcomes while empowering real people to take control of their health. This field will generate almost unimaginable quantities of valuable, high-fidelity data in the coming years. Just as location data has helped mapping services make more intelligent recommendations for navigating from point A to point B, this genomic data can feed directly into research initiatives to improve understanding of the human genome, inform better DNA insights, and ultimately enable smarter medicine.
As Meeker notes, rising healthcare costs—which are increasingly borne by patients—are driving individuals to seek value in ways they hadn’t before. At the same time, these individuals are also asking more of their healthcare, because expectations have been raised dramatically in the digital age. Beautiful, seamless, mobile-first experiences are table stakes in every other aspect of our lives. Why wouldn’t they be table stakes in managing our health and wellness as well?
As consumers look for better ways to take care of themselves, they will naturally gravitate toward products and services that operate the way they do. Personal genomics will be in the vanguard of this trend, in part because the entire field was born of the digital age; there was never a time when personal genomics existed and smartphones did not. The constituents of our industry live and die by the user experiences that they are able to offer.
Consumers own the extraordinarily valuable data that they generate in these products and services, and they must always be in control of how it is used. This brings us back to how personal genomics, vast datasets, and the consumerization of healthcare that Meeker describes will feed into each other to help solve one of the world’s most enduring challenges. Better preventative health is a core part of fixing our healthcare system, but it starts with understanding correlations, and many of these correlations have a genetic component. By offering consumers valuable DNA insights that run the gamuts of depth and category—and by offering those insights in beautiful, digital-native ways—we have the opportunity to create appropriate incentives, drive uptake, and build substantial databases of high-fidelity genotypic and phenotypic data. Researchers will be able to combine and interpret this data in novel ways, leading to new insights that can help us all live longer, healthier lives. And these new insights will feed back into the ecosystem, driving even better apps and services for consumers from every walk of life.
Whole exomes and genomes, combined with electronic health records and incredibly robust datasets from personal devices, are going to lead to more understanding of our DNA in the next several years than in all of human history before it. But we will only get there by leading individuals along the journey. The trend toward the consumerization of healthcare identified in this year’s Internet Trends report isn’t something we fear—we’re embracing it, we will thrive with it, and it will enable us to improve countless lives.