As policymakers in Washington argue over the best way to reform America’s health care system, a compelling new book by Eric Topol, MD, suggests that the advance of technology is going to change how health care services are delivered in more profound and unpredictable ways than most people can imagine. The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is in Your Hands posits that medicine has arrived at its “Gutenberg moment,” in which control of health care will pass from the hands of doctors to patients.
The new technology includes:
- Smartphones that can image a skin lesion and send the image to a computer to determine whether a biopsy is indicated.
- Wearable technology that can keep track of body functions such as blood pressure, heart rates and blood sugar levels.
- Implantable sensors that can collect even more detailed data on a person’s health and send an alarm when something is amiss.
In this brave new world of patient-centric medicine, according to Dr. Topol, people will be able to take responsibility for their health and not have to rely on a physician to tell them what to do. The new technology will make regular visits to the doctor a thing of the past, and many of those will be done via two-way videoconferencing at the cost of a copay for a regular doctor visit. The physician will be able to perform an examination remotely by accessing a patient’s sensor-derived data directly.
Implantable sensors will allow patients to tell, in real time, whether a particular medication is working for conditions ranging from hypertension to depression. The patient, using this information, can adjust medication as needed. Many medications that now require a physician’s prescription might become available based on what a patient’s sensors indicate.
The same sensors will automatically alert the patient’s doctor if an issue is starting to become a problem, say the early stages of cancer or an impending heart attack or stroke. The physician would be able to intervene and head off the condition before it becomes life threatening.
The implications of the new technology and how it will change medicine are profound. Because patients will have fewer interactions with health care professionals and will be alerted to serious conditions in the early stages, the cost of health care will decrease.
To be sure, health insurance companies, research labs, and government regulators will have to adjust to this new way of delivering medicine. Health plans and government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid would be obliged to pay for the new technology because it will help their bottom line by making many treatments for advanced illnesses unnecessary. Research labs will increasingly develop procedures and medications that do not need a doctor’s involvement. Patient-generated data will play a key role in medical research, cutting out the need for randomized clinical trials that are costly, time-consuming, and lack real-world patient experience.
“Dr. Topol’s overriding thesis is that the old days of ‘doctor knows best’ are as good as gone.” – The New York Times
Dr. Topol “does a terrific job of laying out the immense potential of smartphones and iMedicine technologies to democratize medicine like never before.” – Dave Chase of Forbes.com
“Eric Topol’s book focuses us on the most important development in health care today: putting the patient at the center of everything. This is the pathway to the most effective and efficient innovation, development and reform of health care practices, products and policies globally.” – Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson
Dr. Eric J. Topol is a cardiologist, geneticist, and researcher currently working as Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. He has been involved in developing the emerging technology of wireless medicine from its inception. Dr. Topol’s academic positions include Chief Academic Officer for Scripps Health and Professor of Translational Genomics at The Scripps Research Institute. He also holds the Gary and Mary West Chair of Innovative Medicine. Dr. Topol is editor-in-chief of Medscape and theheart.org, and he has one previous book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine.
The Patient Will See You Now is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the future of medicine and how technology is enabling real reform in the delivery of health care.
The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands by Eric Topol, MD is available in hardcover, for the Kindle, and well-narrated unabridged audio from audible.com.