Eric Topol is a physician and editor-in-chief at Medscape. He was interviewed on the Colbert Report last year. His new book, published last month, has been reviewed in the major newspapers. Yet this book, “The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands”, hasn’t received the attention it deserves.
The book is about the future of health care – what’s already happening and what could be coming that’s even better.
Topol’s theme is that new technology and practices make it possible to democratize medical care – to move away from the traditional, paternalistic, hierarchical relationship between doctor and patient.
Hence the title which inverts the traditional words of a medical receptionist that the “doctor will see you now.”
Here’s a sample of some of his key arguments:
“… the world is changing. Patients are generating their own data on their own devices. Already any individual can take unlimited blood pressures or blood glucose measurements.”
“We are embarking on a time when each individual will have all their own medical data and the computer power to process it in the context of their own world. There will be comprehensive medical information about a person that is eminently accessible, analyzable and transferable.”
“Today patients can rapidly diagnose their skin lesion or child’s ear infection without a doctor. That’s just the beginning. … your smartphone will become central to labs, physical exams, and even medical imaging; … you can have ICU-like monitoring in the safety, reduced expense, and convenience of your home.”
“The doctor will see you now via your smartphone screen … they will incorporate sharing your data – the full gamut from sensors, images, labs, and genomic sequence, well beyond an electronic medical record.”
The book is very well researched and comprehensively covers all kinds of ways that technology is interacting with and affecting health care. Dr. Topol provides dozens of examples from all over the field – a laboratory on a chip, smart phones with all kinds of attachments that enable easy measurement of health conditions anywhere, etc.
As a physician, he rightly is concerned about the doctor-patient relationship. As a sometime patient myself, this is of course of personal interest to me as well.
But more than that obvious reason, why else is the picture he presents so important?
With my perspective on how technology will affect where andhow we will live and work, his story is as much about the decentralization of
medical care as it is about the democratization.
With this decentralization, Dr. Topol envisions the
patient’s home becoming an instant medical lab or even a temporary hospital
wing. This means that you can dramatically
improve the quality of your health care even if your home is in the
countryside, miles from a major medical center in the center of a metropolis.
And it’s this distance from medical care that frequently
worries those who live in the countryside.
So when the transformation of medical care becomes more common, one more
traditional disadvantage of rural living that will disappear.
© 2015 Norman Jacknis