Dr. David Agus is a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California. A portion of his forthcoming book, The End of Illness," was adapted for an article in the Wall Street Journal recently. It captures the absolute essence of how consumer oriented innovation will define how healthcare is delivered in the future. The word empathy keeps coming to mind for me, as I consider these big, bold visions of the future - one which George Jetson would approve. They are empathetic towards what people actually want. Often, that's now how businesses, like provider organizations, approach solving problems such as revenue or growth. We have to get better at thinking with empathy about designing how we deliver care. What do healthcare consumers want? That's how new markets are created in other industries and, if Agus's vision comes to fruition, it's how we'll all control our own health destiny in the future.
Also, note what Argus says about the role of the physician: "...doctors won't just examine them once a year; they will continually monitor the next generation of patients, offering advice along the way." Doesn't that sound a lot like what empowered patients and the social media savvy ask for?
I see them being able to monitor and adjust their health in real time with the help of smartphones, wearable gadgets—perhaps like small, invisible stickers—to track the inner workings of their cells, and virtual replicas of their bodies that they will play much like videogames, allowing them to know exactly what they can do to optimize every aspect of their health. What happens when I take drug x at dosage y? How can I change the expression of my genes to stop cancer? Would eating more salmon and dark chocolate boost my metabolism and burn fat? Can red wine really lower my risk of heart attack?
From a drop of their blood, they will be able to upload information onto a personal biochip that can help to create an individualized plan of action, including both preventive measures and therapies for identified ailments or signs of "unhealthiness." (Other body fluids—like tears and saliva—might be routinely tested, too.) They would be on the lookout for problems like imbalances in blood-sugar control, a risk factor for diabetes, and uncontrolled cell growth, which could signal cancer. Their doctors won't just examine them once a year; they will continually monitor the next generation of patients, offering advice along the way.