Welcome to a very special edition of Dispensed, in which Business Insider’s healthcare team is diving into what the future holds for healthcare.
This week, we put out a series exploring where technology meets healthcare. In some cases, it’s leading us to incredible cutting-edge work that’s changing medicine as we know it. In other cases, the convergence has healthcare experts wondering if it’s doing more harm than good.
Here’s a rundown of what we covered.
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First, Emma Court looked into how technology is helping turn the human body into a disease-fighting machine. Companies including pharma giants like Novartis are betting big on the concept.
Pharma giants Novartis and J&J are putting their might behind 2 new technologies that could transform how we treat cancer and obesity
- Technology is giving scientists better tools for developing innovative new medicines.
- More than 30 drug companies are betting on an experimental approach that leverages the trash cans naturally found in the body to obliterate disease.
- Another promising new technology could turn the human body into a medicine-making factory, eliminating the need for injections at the doctor’s office.
I, for my dispatches, had an interesting time exploring new models of healthcare promising to make my experience easier and cheaper (the jury’s still out on the latter). The goal: see how they fare compared to getting care traditionally. In total, I tried out seven startups. For the TL;DR, I rounded up the pros/cons/verdicts in this post.
But for those interested in diving into each experience, here’s the full rundown:
- We got a new eyeglass prescription for $40 at Warby Parker without stepping foot in a doctor’s office. Here’s what it was like.
- I became a member of One Medical, a primary-care practice that charges a $200 annual fee and has plans to double over the next two years. Here’s what it was like.
- Tia is trying to reinvent women’s health. We visited the startup’s first clinic to get a checkup and see how it’s different from a normal doctor’s office. When I went to Tia’s clinic, I noticed some growing pains. More women signed up in the first few weeks after opening than the team had imagined, so right now, the clinic’s not accepting new members until it can hire more doctors and healthcare providers (it started with just one doctor on staff). For BI Prime, I took a closer look at what those first few weeks are like, and what the founders learned along the way.
- I got a new contact lens prescription from Simple Contacts without having to set foot in a doctor’s office. Here’s what it was like.
- I went to a ‘dental bar’ that offers TVs, blankets, and massage exam chairs, and it showed me that medical providers are really starting to get competitive to win patients
I also think I pinpointed the best use case for telemedicine. For my needs, it’s dermatology. It’s a medical service I wouldn’t have sought out otherwise (my skin’s pretty good but still has some annoying breakouts I’ve been meaning to get checked out). But without the burden of a high office visit co-pay, going online gave me a treatment plan that’s surprisingly working well for me. Read more about it — and the caveats that remain — here.
Last but absolutely not least, Erin Brodwin looked at where “move fast and break things” and “do no harm” meet. It’s a case study on three Silicon Valley companies — 23andMe, Facebook, and Juul — and the consequences of tech pushing into healthcare.
From suicide prevention to genetic testing, there’s a widening disconnect between Silicon Valley health tech and outside experts who see red flags
- As Silicon Valley tech companies increasingly push into the realm of healthcare, outside experts and clinicians are raising red flags.
- In the cases of suicide prevention, genetic testing, and e-cigarettes, lives may hang in the balance.
- In the tech universe, much of the motivation for a new technology is wrapped up in its potential to disrupt existing markets.
- In healthcare, clinicians have to think about what could happen to someone after they use the tool they are given. The risk of harm is high.
Hope you enjoy! And for reference, you can find all of the stories from the series here.
Of course, news didn’t stop while we were working on our project. Emma reported on the latest Mallinckrodt lawsuit, in which whistleblowers accuse the company of using trips to Las Vegas, spa treatments, and Starbucks gift cards as a way to bribe doctors. She also has the story on a doctor who helped create a skin-care line for Amazon, and just started a new website to take on drug companies that charge $2,000 for common creams.
I rounded up what insurers think of “Medicare for All” (hint: they’re not exactly thrilled) + an interesting idea for a Medicare Advantage plan that gives pharmacists some skin in the game to keep members healthier. And Erin has a great post about why experts were so worried about the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.”
What’s going on at uBiome?
Last Friday, we first started hearing about the troubles going on at microbiome-testing company uBiome. That morning, the FBI had raided uBiome’s offices, reportedly in connection with an investigation the agency’s doing into the company’s billing practices. Then, on Wednesday, the company placed its cofounders and co-CEOs Jessica Richman and Zachary Apte on administrative leave.
The company’s general counsel stepped in as CEO. “We intend to cooperate fully with government authorities and private payors to satisfactorily resolve the questions that have been raised,” he said in a statement.
CNBC reported yesterday on instances in which the company had over-billed patients and health plans. (Because your microbiome changes over time, there’s a case to be made for testing multiple times to look for changes —differing from, say, a DNA test that you’d only have to take once).
Seems like there’ll be more to unravel, and I’ll be tuning in. Send tips/leads/general questions about the company to lramsey@businessinsider or you can reach me on the encrypted chat app Signal at +1 646-889-2130.
On that note, I’ll send you into your weekends with no shortage of reading material. Let us know what you think of our “Future of Healthcare” series. We’re hoping to do more ambitious projects like it going forward. You can reach the healthcare team at firstname.lastname@example.org.