Then, in March, Cigna said it would buy pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts for more than $50bn.
What’s driving this frenzy of health care–related dealmaking? On first glance you might think it’s merely the pursuit of mass itself. Of “scale,” as management types like to say. But in truth, there’s a more powerful catalyst — one so gargantuan and infinitesimal at the same time that it sounds like the answer to a riddle. And that’s data.
More specifically, it’s your data: your individual biology, your health history and ever-fluctuating state of well-being, where you go, what you spend, how you sleep, what you put in your body and what comes out. The amount of data you slough off everyday — in lab tests, medical images, genetic profiles, liquid biopsies, electrocardiograms, to name just a few — is overwhelming by itself. Throw in the stuff from medical claims, clinical trials, prescriptions, academic research, and more, and the yield is something on the order of 750 quadrillion bytes every day — or some 30 percent of the world’s data production. These massive storehouses of information have always been there. But now, thanks to a slew of novel technologies, sophisticated measuring devices, ubiquitous connectivity and the cloud, and yes, artificial intelligence, companies can harness and make sense of this data as never before. “It’s not the data,” says Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. “It’s the analytics. Up until three-to-five years ago, all that data was just sitting there. Now it’s being analyzed and interpreted. It’s the most radical change happening in health care.”
The quest to retrieve, analyze, and leverage that data has become the new gold rush. And a vanguard of tech titans — not to mention a bevy of hot startups — are on the hunt for it.
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