I recently stumbled upon an article about a hospital installing a system that can sequence a patient’s genome in just three hours. This initiative reminded me of the Human Genome Project, launched in 1990 with the goal of sequencing all three billion base pairs. I remember seeing a news segment about it that showed rows upon rows of filing cabinets, filled with sheets of paper documenting the unraveling of this mysterious four-letter code. The project was completed in 2003, after 13 years of tenacious work. Now we have the ability to repeat the task in just three hours.
It’s been 12 years since that groundbreaking project was completed, and it makes me wonder what technology will enable us to do 12 years from now. When the first cell phones were available, the devices were in “bags” the size of a shoe and made guest appearances on TV shows in the hands of government agents as the latest-and-greatest. Clunky as they were, their capabilities made me imagine there would come a day when we’d have receivers implanted in our heads, and we could all look engrossed in marvelous conversations with ourselves. We don’t have direct implants yet, but with Bluetooth® devices that can be hidden under a hat or behind a lock of hair, I sometimes wonder if people are on the phone or just really enjoying the freedom to carry on their own internal private conversations and not raise eyebrows.
So how about healthcare? What will change in 12 years? Will we still be fighting the same battles over reimbursement models and access to insurance? Will accountable care models be the norm? Will we have figured out how to “do” population health successfully? I love to imagine that we will have a truly integrated network of electronic medical records so I won’t have to fill out a medical history form every time I visit a new provider, whether I’m in the same town or in a different state. And mHealth is continuing to gain popularity among consumers, as well as with physicians to help monitor and interact with patients – where will the progress of wearables be in 12 years? Will remote monitoring and telemedicine completely change the landscape of managed care for chronic diseases like diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? And how advanced will other apps become, such as diagnostics? There are currently campaigns to convince people not to use online tools to diagnose themselves. Will this trend reverse as sensors and apps become more sophisticated?
And for my clinical readers out there, what would you like to see? Is there a function of technology that would make your lives a lot easier in the hospital? Returning for a moment to the cell phone, we now carry little computers in our pockets that can make phone calls, research information on the Internet or in medical apps, and send secure messages to a colleague to get fast answers to questions. What else would you like them to do for you? Write to us with your questions, or leave us a comment on Facebook or LinkedIn.