Social Networks To Click With Health Care, Says Byers

Social networks are promising, yet under-used tools for spreading quality health care.

Someday they will likely achieve their potential. But the gestation period may last for some time.

Asked for a 10-year prediction on the health care industry, venture investor Brook Byers said he foresees a day when hospitals, patients and other health care providers will be connected in giant online networks – think Facebook, Twitter and the like. That day, he suggested at the Silicom Ventures Personalized Medicine World Conference in Mountain View, Calif., will be here by 2020.

Byers is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and an investor in personalized medicine startups. He says he is optimistic about personalized medicine and particularly “about the role diagnostics plays.”

But he says the industry – with its customized approach to medicine and its reliance on DNA sequencing – is in its early days.

With respect to social networks, Byers said he sees them allowing a trusted network of friends to share information about referrals and treatments. “This is all about networks,” he says.

Here are several additional insights from the conference that might be useful to startups:

*By 2020, the number of ordinary people participating in health care research will jump and they will think their participation “cool,” says Kathy Hudson, chief of staff in the office of the director of the National Institute of Health. These interested participants will pay special attention to the results of the research.

*Even as the technology of personalized medicine marches ahead, the transfer of that technology to the clinical market place and to consumers is slow. Setting up model clinics to treat specific diseases might be the best way to take on this challenge, says Ralph Snyderman, chancellor emeritus at Duke University and a former venture partner at New Enterprise Associates. The clinics, if successful, could be copied elsewhere.