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More knowledge + less government = A healthier you
A vast reservoir of digital data combine with incredible biosensor tools promise a health-care future driven by smarter individual engagement
 
Bill Frist
Bill Frist

The most intimate, the most immediate, the most personal aspect of your life is your health, both of your body and mind. So why is it that our day-to-day care has not benefited from the explosions in technology, digitization, and connectedness that are revolutionizing other aspects of our lives? 

In spite of U.S. leadership in innovation and technology, we still lag behind the rest of the developed world in such fundamental health measures as infant mortality and life expectancy. It seems impossible. Especially when we are spending so much more per capita than any other country.

I predict all this will radically change over the next decade. We are about to enter a unique and unprecedented era of medicine. And the change will be driven predominantly by smarter individual engagement. Not by government. Not by doctors and hospitals. Not by insurance companies.

The consumer will be newly empowered with valuable information, enabling new tools and personally tailored science to help you bypass the resistance to change that has long characterized the health care sector. A grand coalescence is defining this new era. In the simplest sense, it is a convergence of the digital and the medical world, one that would have been impossible even a few years ago. But to be more specific, it is a dynamic intersection of increasingly cloud-based information with exponentially growing data sets of new individualized health information, expanded internet bandwidth, and pervasive connectivity enabled through more than 6 billion mobile phones, parallel supercomputing powers, social networking (Facebook just passed a billion users), and unraveling of our individual genetic code. It all opens the door to personalized medicine. All this merges with advances in personal wearable and implanted biosensors, digitized imaging, and wireless real-time transmission of information.

Consumers will need to lead the charge. Government will have to get out of the way.

Historically, doctors and hospitals have been notoriously slow to change. Because health knowledge resided predominantly with them, the health sector neglected transformations that have dramatically altered communications, finance, and manufacturing. And while government is good at ensuring equality and fairness, it is laughably slow at large-scale innovation and change.

Too much of medicine today centers on the average or "median" patient. That is what "evidence-based medicine" and much of "comparative effectiveness" is all about. We test drugs on large populations and if on average the drug helps, we license it, but only at a standard dose for all. That era is passing. An individual patient is never the median patient. The "new medicine" will open the door to individualized care based on a person's unique genetic predisposition and environmental circumstances, ensuring the appropriate treatment with the fewest side effects for that individual's specific condition. 

We will move from a health delivery sector with an imprecise focus on disease to a new personalized focus on preserving health, with more targeted prevention and individualized diagnoses and treatment. This personalization of health, enabled by these remarkable new tools, opens the door to true prevention of disease and self-maintenance of health. As the digital world infiltrates the medical world, health service will increasingly integrate with improving individual behavior. Armed with new knowledge about one's own health and with the tools to manage it, individuals will be incentivized and finally equipped to change behavior to live more fulfilling lives. 

And it is this change in individual behavior that will dramatically impact actual health outcomes (and costs) that plague our health sector. It won't be a government reform initiative, insurance plan, the quality of your local hospital or doctor, or any other potential factor we more commonly associate with quality or cost outcome. It will be you.

The grand coalescence is here. To take full advantage of it, consumers will need to lead the charge. Government will have to get out of the way. Now is the time for doctors and hospitals to embrace the robust new advances of the digital era. And a healthier America, I truly believe, is on the way.

 

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