A couple weeks ago I was listening to a panel discussion with a bunch of venture capitalists and someone (I can't remember who) made the point that the value of so many of today's web services comes down to one question: "who owns the data?" For example, while Uber has some nice UI/UX, the real reason they're so valuable is that they own the data. For them, the data is knowing where all the cars are located. I go to Uber because I can quickly locate and communicate with the drivers in my area. I like the app, but the real value is the location data. Same thing with AirBnB. It's not the app, it's the data they have on all the properties that I'd like to rent.
With this in mind, last week I read that Stanford Healthcare announced that they built the first patient facing app that integrates data from devices such as Fitbits and Withings scales into Apple's Healthkit app. Apple can than transmit that data to the patient's provider through the provider's patient portal app (in this case, MyChart, which is built by Epic Systems, a huge health IT vendor that builds software for hospitals and health systems).
This is an enormous step forward for the integration of patient captured health data with provider captured health data. It's awesome news.
But as all of this finally starts to come together, it begs the question: who owns the data?
Or, at scale, which company benefits the most from all of this data floating around?
Stanford? Withings? Fitbit? Apple? Epic?
Well, Stanford is very local, and isn't terribly focused on data collection, so it's probably not them.
Withings, Fitbit and other device makers contribute a relatively small part of human health data so at least for now they're not going to own a large piece of the data pie.
Apple still only owns well under half of U.S. smart phone market share -- and that number is expected to shrink. And they own even less of the market share of the chronically ill patient segment that can really benefit from this kind of data exchange.
So that leaves Epic, the 30-year-old health IT vendor that currently owns a medical record on well over half of the U.S. population. They have long-term contracts with large providers and (presumably) a long-term contract with Apple and will likely cut deals with Android and other smartphone operating systems in the near future.
In short, more than anyone else, Epic will own the data.
But this raises all sorts of new and interesting questions and conflicts. Will Stanford allow Epic to share its patient records with other Epic providers? Will Stanford allow Epic to share its patient records with other health IT companies? Will Epic allow Stanford patient records to be shared with other health IT companies? Will Apple allow Epic to share data captured from an Apple device with data captured from an Android device?
As I've written before, it seems to me that in the long-term, the answer is a Mint.com for Healthcare, where the patient truly owns the data. But in the meantime, the question of "who owns the data?" will be watched closely by investors, app makers, providers, health IT companies and patients. It's going to be fascinating to watch this play out.