Proactive healthcare: more patient control, higher quality care
By Dick Pelletier
Regardless of how the U.S. healthcare debate plays out, America could find itself more than 200,000 physicians short by 2020. There are simply not enough medical schools in the country to produce the amount of doctors needed to address patient demands.
However, experts predict that new technologies expected 2015-to-2025 will give more control to patients and eliminate many time-consuming office visits; thus freeing doctors to treat additional patients while delivering a more individualized care.
The new technologies include affordable personal genomes that will help patients prevent many diseases before they happen; health-monitoring systems that can record caloric intake, glucose levels, heart rhythm, and respiratory rates, then transmit this data via the Internet for doctor and patient review; and regenerative medicine techniques that use stem cells and gene therapies to regrow damaged and aging tissues and organs.
One of the oldest names in computing, IBM, is joining the race to sequence the genome for $1,000 with a goal of ultimately reducing the cost to as low as $100, making a personal genome cheaper than a Las Vegas show ticket. Scientists predict that within five years DNA sequencing will be affordable enough that personal genomics can be integrated into routine clinical care.
San Diego-based Corventis is entering clinical trials with the PiiX, a disposable device that sticks to a patient's chest like a Band-Aid and monitors heart and respiratory rates, bodily fluids, and many other activities.
The technology has already received FDA approval, but Corventis envisions the PiiX as much more than a monitoring system. Newly-developed algorithms can predict when a patient is on the verge of heart failure.
"What Corventis wants to do is create machine intelligence that can manage patients' overall health," says CEO Ed Manicka. "It moves from the reactive approach of practicing medicine prevalent today, to something more proactive, preventative, and individualized."
Eric Topol, director of Scirpps Translational Science Institute sees a power-driven consumer movement ahead, which will allow patients to exert more control over their healthcare.
In the future, armed with remote monitoring and low-cost personal genomes, patients will be more involved in self-care, said researcher Gary West, head of West Wireless Health Institute.
Congestive heart failure is the leading reason for hospital admission in the U.S., and recently it was shown that 26.9% of Medicare patients are re-hospitalized within 30 days. This adds another $10 billion to spiraling costs. But new technologies could eliminate the majority of these expenses.
Automated health monitoring will reduce costs related to chronic diseases and improve quality of life, according to analysts at a recent Gartner Symposium in Sidney, Australia. Patient interest will ultimately decide how fast this fledgling industry grows, which some predict will surpass $2 billion in sales within five years.
Positive futurists believe that healthcare will soon undergo huge transformations. By 2015 to 2025, most of these new technologies will become reality; and by 2030 or before, nanobots will be cruising through our bodies repairing all of the accumulated damages caused by aging.
Will this "magical future" unfold at such a fast pace? Experts say it certainly has a chance, and many people alive today could survive and become part of this amazing future.
This piece, written 12/01/2009 will appear in various print media and blogs; comments welcome. See other articles by Dick at http://www.positivefuturist.com; click the "published work" tab.