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Bill Gates Converts to Digital Health—Paul Sonnier Announcement to 15,000+ member Digital Health Group on LinkedIn

February 10, 2013

I sent the following announcement to 15,200 members of my Digital Health group on LinkedIn:

Dear Digital Health group members,

In this update:



As we’re seeing, the super-convergence of the digital revolution with health and medicine has brought us to the proverbial tipping point (Malcolm Gladwell), which Dr. Topol was first to comprehensively and cogently describe in his book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care”. In the book’s final paragraph, Dr. Topol states that the “digital high definition of humans will shape the great inflection of medicine”. He specifies that the drivers of this inflection are wireless devices (e.g. mobile smartphones) and sensors (e.g. wearable and embedded wireless nanosensors), DNA sequencing, information systems, the data universe, cloud computing, the Internet, and social networking.

Given the tipping point we’ve arrived at, it’s not surprising that digital featured prominently last week at both the Burrill Digital Health Meeting and FutureMed. Steve Burrill kicked things off with a screening of Dr. Topol’s segment on Rock Center and, at FutureMed, Dr. Peter Diamandis, CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, talked a lot about digital as did John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific. Continuing the theme of attribution, early in his presentation John showed an image of Topol’s Rock Center appearance plus his book cover. (Note to Mr. Abele: Dr. Topol is not a “Qualcomm spokesman” any more than Dr. Diamandis, whose efforts with the Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE are a critical catalyst to digital health.)

While at Microsoft, Bill Gates accelerated the personal computing revolution. However, the company was notoriously late to the Internet and mobile smartphone revolutions resulting in it not being one of the “Four horsemen of the digital revolution”, as Topol calls them: Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.

In his charitable endeavors, Gates has been a proponent of mHealth. However, he recently expanded his scope to digital health. While this is wonderful, it’s noteworthy that while paraphrasing Dr. Topol’s digital health super-convergence in a recent commentary, he did not attribute anything to him. Also disconcerting is that he conflated digital health with mHealth. His statement “Digitally-enabled health care, or mHealth” is totally inaccurate. Let’s hope he gets it right in the future.

There’s been criticism recently of the hype surrounding and emanating from Massive Health, which was just acquired by Jawbone, maker of the UP activity tracking system. But the critics miss the point. The Eatery app is an example of a digital health solution (mHealth is a subset) designed primarily for consumer and social enjoyment—not necessarily clinical benefit. By contrast, at the other end of the spectrum there are products in an entirely different league known as “mobile integrated therapies”. These are FDA cleared products designed to impact clinical outcomes, fit into both the consumer and provider ecosystems, and often require a prescription. WellDoc is a solution of this type that always comes to mind. I reached out to Chris Bergstrom, their Chief Strategy and Commercial Officer, who had this to say: “Both consumer apps and mobile integrated therapies have room to play in the market, just as sports drinks and pharmaceuticals co-exist in separate multi-billion dollar industries, but their purposes and impact dramatically vary.” I couldn’t agree more.
Best regards,
Paul Sonnier

Founder, 15,000+ member Digital Health group
Head, Digital Health Strategy, Popper and Co.
Twitter: @Paul_Sonnier


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One Comment
  1. Swatee permalink

    Thanks for posting great articles. I agree there is space for both types of apps. It will take very different skill sets to be successful in either spectrum. I wonder is it going to be binary, meaning either purely consumer or purely clinical v.s. a spectrum.

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