There are two stories this week that are totally unrelated, yet they are totally related. First, a sad tale. Construction worker wins a million dollars in the lottery. One of the first things he does is go see a doctor, because he finally has money to do so. The man finds out he has stage 4 cancer and dies three weeks after hitting the big time.
The second story is that this week three of the biggest names in American business: Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase – announced a new venture to provide better, cheaper health care for their employees. A fundamental problem with today’s system, according to the three multi-nationals is that patients lack knowledge and control. Access to data can bestow both.
Now while the second story is full of promise to “be disruptive” in the health care sector, access to data would not have solved the gentleman’s problem in the first story. Most people have that gut feeling that something is wrong when they hit stage three on the cancer scale. You know, weight loss, feeling of being tired all the time, things like that. Cancer is not like the flu; you live with it for a while The problem is not knowing something is wrong, the problem is being able to do something about it once you know. Taking care of that problem most likely would have taken the gentleman’s winnings and still left him tragically in debt. Perhaps, cynically, dying actually left his family in a better condition.
Unfortunately, that is where we stand. We have all various types of technology that are being developed to help us understand what our bodies are doing. There is promise, no doubt about that. But we still have yet to come to terms with how we can afford to take care of ourselves once the technology finds something. Data is one thing. The ability to act on that data is where we lose the game.