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Fixing Is The Least Of It When It Comes To Reinventing Health Care

So says 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki, who believes consumers will have to take health data into their own hands before costs come down and the system begins to change.

Fixing Is The Least Of It When It Comes To Reinventing Health Care

23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki & Fast Company's Editorial Director Jill Bernstein at Innovation Uncensored San Francisco 2013

[Photo by Nicky Digital for Fast Company]

At this moment, health care reform is most associated with Obamacare and the failure of to sign up users for plans through the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplace. But as 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki reminded an audience at Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored conference Wednesday, health care reform is more about changing the country's overall approach to health and its economics than it is about fixing a buggy website—and that patients will be the ones with the power to do that.

"An insurance company came to us the week after Obama was reelected," she told the San Francisco crowd, "and said 'Well, health care reform is here to stay, it looks like we have to keep people healthy. How do we do it?' It’s an important thing to remember, that’s how the system works. Their system is not aligned with your health."

As the only direct-to-consumer company in the field, which charges $99 for personalized genetic testing, 23andMe was founded on the principle of giving consumers control of their own health data and empowering them to use it to make choices (see the recent Fast Company cover story). At Innovation Uncensored, Wojcicki stressed that her goal of signing up a million genotyped customers by the end of the year is largely about creating a critical mass of people who will force the health care system, starting with its own physicians, to pay attention to their educated questions and move toward a preventative model that makes money off of healthy people, not sick ones.

"Physicians have told us that the biggest problem with 23andMe is that we generate non-billable questions. If a patient goes to their doctor and says 'I'm at high risk for a blood clot, what do I do?' the doctor will say, 'Come back to me when you have a blood clot.'"

But, she says, the mission of 23andMe has always been to give people the data that companies have been hoarding, and profiting from. "The great loophole in all of health care is that you own your own data and ultimately you can direct your care. We’re direct to consumer not because it’s easy, but because that’s how you create a revolution."