As Eric Topol notes in his recent US News article, one of the few areas that technology hasn’t affected that drastically is the medical field. By nature, many doctors are risk averse and change can take time. Now that many Americans have a pocket device which allows them to monitor almost all aspects of their life, the medical profession will soon have no choice but to adapt.
Patients will soon want access to their medical records at the touch of a button, much like they can check their favorite social media networks or bank statements. While the initial changes will probably empower patients in simple ways, Topol envisions smartphone technology completely revolutionizing the medical industry from top to bottom. More than just streamlining medical records and insurance information, Topol believes that smartphones will actually be able to take the place of certain medical instruments.
Imagine being able to monitor your own vital signs from your iPhone or Android. This may not be far off. The technology already exists to be able to monitor this information remotely and could be in consumers hands sooner rather than later. Even more fascinating is the prospect that a smartphone could actually map a person’s genome. This could finally usher in an age of truly individualized medicine, which has been slow to take shape in a world where almost everything is customized and on-demand.
Topol envisions a scenario in which people could screen themselves for cancer and other diseases. He also believes the digitization of human beings could lead to the ability to print new organs, which would obviously change how we think about health and human life as a whole.
These are complex issues that deserve careful ethical analysis. It is unclear how close some of these developments truly are, but what is clear is that we are in a very exciting age for medical technology and the democratization of medicine.
Check back regularly or more updates on the medical world and other musings.