Mary Meeker’s greatly anticipated annual report on internet trends was released recently, and, as always, it has a lot of interesting facts and insights worth paying attention to. Especially since this year, the report includes a very interesting section on Healthcare by Noah Kauf.

So what are the key insights and stats for healthcare from this 355-page presentation? Here is my brief summary and additional commentary on the report. 

There is an explosion of digital data that is replacing the old analog healthcare data capture. The amount of digital health data captured grew at an estimated rate of 48% per year in 2013. This just underscores even further the immense pressure placed on providers to keep up with the ever-increasing flood of patient information, with digital tools that often lag significantly behind in the slow-to-adopt, high-risk healthcare setting.

Even so, EHR use, as we know, is now prevalent even among office-based physicians (87% in 2015). Also, most hospitals are already providing the ability for patients to view (95% in 2015) and download (87% in 2015) their health data. This is critical in a space where the consumers are increasingly engaged in their own health and wellbeing. The report found that 1 in 10 consumers have already used 5 or more digital health tools, like wearables or online physician consultation, in 2016 as compared to only 2% just the year before. Wearables, especially, are becoming commonly used with about 40% of millennials owning a wearable in 2016.

Medical science is also seeing an acceleration of insights and breakthroughs thanks to increased data generation and sharing. Medical research data is doubling every 3.5 years. Genetic testing costs have dropped faster than Moore’s law and have resulted in an explosion of commercially available genetic tests and an increase from 5 to 132 available personalized medicines from 2008 to 2016. Data is also increasingly explored or used to optimize chronic disease management, clinical pathway selection and to identify the right preventative health services for the right people – even though the number of companies that have commercial solutions in these areas is still small.

Personal thoughts on these findings.

Some of these trends from the report are eye-popping, although not surprising. The dark side of the explosion of clinical data is the burnout of providers, whose tools are inadequate to turn the growing flood of data about their patients into insights. Even with the high rate of EHR adoption, true “meaningful use” is hard to achieve. Many of these systems are little more than hard to use repositories of poor quality data with most of the information buried in notes that providers do not have time to dig for and widespread challenges with the sharing of information.

Nevertheless, the pressure on EHR systems to provide “insights” and help providers identify the relevant information and right clinical pathways is on and there are already a number of small gains by major vendors, startups and internal hospital IT groups that have shown the tremendous benefits even small targeted insights can yield for individual patients when combined with improved clinical protocols for areas like sepsis, readmission, CAUTI, and CLABSI, just to name a few.

The increase in the speed of medical science is also great news for an industry that takes 12 years to develop the next drug – however, even significant improvements in speed in this area are still going to leave the development times closer to a decade or at least multiple years in the near future. Nevertheless, insights and optimized workflows from analyzing the data that is already available have tremendous potential for both population health and individual patient outcomes. Especially as the amount of natively digital (and thus more consistent quality) data is increasing.

Given all this, I continue to believe that the greatest improvement in health and healthcare will continue to come from improved digital analytics and tools to better prevent, identify, manage, and cure disease for the foreseeable future. The way we practice medicine is in the middle of a major and extremely rapid reform, despite claims of a  slow-to-change industry. The transition it is forcing will be a painful one, especially for providers, whose role and business model is evolving rapidly with a support and incentive system that will be hard pressed to stay in sync with the ongoing reform in patient care.