Saturday, January 10, 2015

Don’t Hold Your Breath Over Those High-Tech Smartphone Breakthroughs

From phone attachments that can diagnose an ear infection to apps that can monitor your mental health, a range of new high-tech tools promises to tilt health-care control from doctors to patients.

Eric J. Topol,MD, cardiologist and author of The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is In Your Hands(Basic Books), in “Your Smartphone Will See You Now, “ Wall Street Journal, January 10-11, 2015

Although this blog is entitled Medinnovation and although I wrote a 2007 book Innovation-Driven Health Care: 34 Key Concepts for Innovation, I am not quite as enthusiastic as Dr. Eric Topol as smartphone innovations.

Topol predicts, among other things, that:

1) You will soon be able to demand and get a secure video consultation at any time of the day or night.

2) Virtual video visits will replace physical doctor visits.

3) Hospitals of the future will be roomless data surveillance centers for remote patient monitoring.

4) Wearable sensors will track your blood pressures , your glucose levels, your eye glaucoma eye pressures, your brain waves, your gait, your exposure to pollution and pesticides, your various lab tests, your X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI images, the function of your every organ system.

5) You’ll be in the driver’s seat when you see your doctor, for you will have your personal data in your smart phone in your hand. You, not your doctor, will be the boss.

6) A doctor shortage will be a thing of the past.

7) Pyschiatrists will be passé. With smart phones, you will be able to monitor our state of mind and the degree of your pyschosis by the tone and inflection of your voice, your facial expression, your breathing pattern, your galvanic skin response, and your brain waves.

8) You will even have skin in the smart phone can take pictures of your rash, and a computer algorithm will tell you what it is.

9) You’ll be able to integrate your individual data with data from the population as a whole, and you can pre-empt the progress of your disease.

10) Massive online information will pull together information from billions of individuals to determine the right diagnosis and the best treatment.

Topol sums up the potential of smartphones this way, “As more medical data is generated by patients and processed by computers, much of medicine’s diagnostic and monitoring aspects will shift away from physicians like me. The ‘doctorless’ patient will remain in charge, turning to doctors chiefly for treatment, guidance, wisdom, experience, empathy and the human touch.”

I like the last part, but for the most part, I don’t believe all of what Dr. Topol is predicting will happen or is necessarily a good thing.
Data-driven medicine by smartphone may not be what they are cracked up to be. They may not empower or emancipate patients from their doctor. Smartphones may foster the them in the illusion that artificial intelligence can replace human intelligence. The medical world will still be strewn with snares, delusions, traps, pratfalls, and pitfalls of the false assurance that data trumps experienced minds in human relationships. Data-driven health care is not the same as innovation-driven health care. Data is a small part of a larger equation. There are no absolute data-truths, only human interpretations of those truths.

No comments: