Friday, July 1, 2016
Future Shock and Medicine
Future shock…the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.
Alvin Toffler (1928-2016), Future Shock (1970)
Alvin Toffler, the futurists’ futurist, has died in Los Angeles at age 87
In a trilogy of books – Future Shock (1970), The Third Wave (1980), and PowerShift (1990), Toffler described the transition from the industrial age to the information age in these terms
“ The Second Wave Society is understood and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass entertainments, and weapons of mass destruction. You combine these things with standardization, centralization, concentration, and synchronization, and you wind up a style of organizations we all call bureaucracy.”
This is precisely what is occurring medicine and the health reform. The forces of managed care in the form of HMOs, PPOs, and integrated large organizations and of government, as exemplified by ObamaCare have sought to standardize, centralize, concentrate, and synchronize health care into organizational and governmental bureaucracies. To a large extent, these forces have succeeded.
Toffler predicted these changes:
· The influence of personal computers
· The coming of the Internet
· Cable television
· Interactive medial
· Online chat rooms
· Virtual reality
· The shift of mass manufacturing and marketing to a computerized information society
Along the way, Toffler coined these phrases “A roaring current of change, “information overload,” “confusional breakdown,” “the information age.”
And he predicted displacement of workers who did not have the time or inclination to learn the skills of the information age,
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read, but those who cannot unlearn, and relearn."
“Our technological powers will increase, but the side effects and potential hazards will accelerate.”
“One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we’ll need a new definition.’
Toffler was on target. The information age has accelerated change, we are overloaded with Internet information, millions of workers have been displaced and replaced by the computer, many of these workers have been unable to unlearn the old way and to relearn the new ways, the side effects and hazards are becoming evident, and virtual reality has arrived
Changes are medicine include: consolidation and absorption of individual patients and physicians into large organizations; the transition from fee-for-service payment based on clinical judgment to “value” payment based on data; the decline of private practice; the electronic revolution with its reliance on data rather than clinical judgment; and physicians’ rush to become hospital employment for economic security or do cash only practices to escape 3rd party mandates and restrictions.
Toffler foresaw “information confusion” and “information overload.” He did not foresee how these factors will play out. Will an overreaching global bureaucracy, i.e., the establishment, call the shots? Or will those advocating national and individual sovereignty and liberty, emerge as victors? The European Union, Brexit, Clinton, or Trump?