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Esther Dyson's Population Health Dream

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, May 14, 2013

The former Wall Street technology analyst turned key Silicon Valley investor believes city-wide ecosystems of health incentives and disincentives for unhealthy habits could have a significant positive effect on the nation's health.


Esther Dyson


Photo: CC copyright 2008
courtesy of Joi on Flickr.

Perhaps Esther Dyson has spent a bit too much time traveling, investing, and cosmonaut training in the former Soviet Union, becuase her latest pet project, for how healthcare and technology might start to fix America's health problems, can sound like a new spin on central planning, albeit with a twist.

Dyson, a former Wall Street technology analyst turned key Silicon Valley investor, helped jumpstart the current venture capital craze for healthcare technology startups. Her own investments include Medscape, PatientsLikeMe, HealthTap, PatientsKnowBest, and numerous others.

One can argue that even with Obamacare on the way, this country's response to lifestyle-generated epidemics of obesity and Type 2 adult diabetes are being addressed chiefly by the free market.

After all, fee-for-service care still accounts for 90 percent of healthcare in this country, and at Monday's Health:Refactored event, I heard the existing U.S. healthcare system described, not flatteringly, as "the mother of all adaptive systems." (The quote is attributed to Arnold Milstein MD, who directs Stanford's Clinical Excellence Research Center.)

That means big minds such as Dyson's are a bit stumped in 2013 about how free markets alone will solve some big healthcare problems. So they're taking a look at building city-wide ecosystems of health incentives and, equally, disincentives for unhealthy habits.

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