PayPal co-founder on 'putting data to work' in healthcare with Glow app

PayPal co-founder on 'putting data to work' in healthcare with Glow app

Summary: Max Levchin suggested big data will take root first within "industries where data is measurable and outcomes are verifiable."

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SAN FRANCISCO -- One industry both poised to be revolutionized by big data -- but perhaps one of the most resistant to it -- is healthcare.

During a fireside chat with AllThingsD's Kara Swisher at the 2013 Data Driven Conference on Wednesday, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin described the inspiration behind his latest startup, Glow, a mobile app that takes advantage of data to aid families going through fertility treatments.

With the exception of Massachusetts, Levchin asserted that no other state mandates insurance coverage for fertility treatments.

"It turns out to be, as many things are in health, an information problem," Levchin reflected.

Thus, Levchin declared Glow, which launched earlier this year, as "the first attempt" in making fertility (and later other medical treatments) more affordable thanks to information being made more readily available and actionable.

"The fundamental truism of data-driven companies is you either talk about it or take the principal risk," Levchin remarked. "You have to put your money where your mouth is, or in this case, your money where your data is."

Referring to healthcare at one point as a "convoluted space," Levchin posited that the general pattern is that many processes have a natural decline of some metric matched by an associated cost.

"The fundamental truism of data-driven companies is you either talk about it or take the principal risk," Levchin remarked. "You have to put your money where your mouth is, or in this case, your money where your data is."

For example, Levchin suggested that if you watch red blood cell count on a monthly basis, you could detect a trend, upon which could be actionable.

Such data intervention and prediction could then offer initial hints at what might evolve into a much more expensive matter for both the patient and the national healthcare system.

"These curves of actionable behavior are completely non-linear," Levchin added.

Beyond just healthcare, Levchin replied that data will take root and attack problems first within "industries where data is measurable and outcomes are verifiable."

He highlighted Square as one company close to quantifying and determining the value of digitized transactions.

As far as measuring Glow's success, Levchin said the company will be looking toward the number of natural pregnancies as well as reduced costs for fertility treatments experienced by couples using the app.

Levchin narrowed down the industries where he'd like to see big data applied most (and soonest) to the following five: healthcare, finance, food, education, and transportation.

Admitting he doesn't have the most first-hand knowledge about the topic, Levchin responded that one thing he'd like to live to see is the utilization of hurricanes for energy-harvesting.

He followed up, "To do that, you have to be able to predict it. To predict it, you have to mine weather data."

Topics: Big Data, Apps, Data Management, Health, Mobility

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