The President's Message - The Future of Healthcare - Is there an app for that?

by Chris Rivers, ICHP President
July 15, 2012

I recently attended the ASHP Summer meeting in Baltimore. Dr. Daniel Kraft, Executive Director of Futuremed, physician, scientist, entrepreneur and the inventor of MarrowMiner, was the opening session keynote speaker. Dr. Kraft delivered his address "The Future of Healthcare: Where Can Technology Take Us".

He is in charge of Futuremed’s Silicon-based Singularity University that teaches business executives, technologists and government leaders about "exponential technologies". These are inventions in fields that experience faster than average growth such as robotics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. The belief of Singularity University’s founders is that combining these technologies in new ways could be the solution to some of the world’s major problems such as energy shortages poverty, hunger, and disease.

Healthcare has emerged with fast moving technologies. There are new layers of information and applications: health data, government startup health and healthcare boot camp. The "left bound" trend focuses on prevention or disease mitigation versus treatment of disease.

According to Dr. Kraft, the future of healthcare is faster, cheaper and smaller. There is a "data explosion" as different facets of disease management and healthcare are becoming less expensive and more effective with smaller mobile smart phone applications and platforms. Mobile devices have faster imaging speeds and better resolution. There are technologies such as virtual c-scopes (colonoscopies); interventional cardiology including CT heart scans with information transmission to iCloud; high speed computation Magnetic Resonance Imaging; and electronic medical records. Mobile applications such as AliveCor’s AliveECG™ connect EKG information for EKG reviews. Fitbit® is a clip-on, web-integrated device, which helps track the number of calories one burns during the day. Telemedicine and virtual visits allow for increased access to patients including postoperative follow-ups on programs such as Triage 2.0. Gaming devices as Wii Fit™ and Microsoft Xbox™ can be used as part of the physical therapy rehabilitative process.

At least 20 apps exist for pharmacy related topics. An example is iBGStar® glucose meter integrated phone, which can be used alone or directly connected to an iPhone or iPod Touch. The meter tracks glucose, insulin and carbohydrates intake and charts individualized glucose patterns over time. The data can be shared with the healthcare team. Social media sites such as Facebook are collecting data, patients "Yelping" can rate clinicians and healthcare providers, and Open Table’s Zocdoc™ allows one to make online appointments with healthcare professionals.

In the future, there may be GPS health-related services such as On Star®, which act similarly to a "check engine" light by using artificial intelligence to monitor vital signs and send for help in emergent situations. In addition, personalization with genomics will enable healthcare scientists to compare interpersonal DNA, diseases of people with related genetics, and medications’ effects on subsets of patients. Testing with genomics is expected to be more economical at approximately $100 per test versus the current astronomical price of genome mapping.

There are, however, concerns with these rapid and expansive advances in technology. Of particular concern is how reimbursement is processed for such care and whether access to massive amounts of information may actually impede clinicians from making sound clinical decisions. Health information privacy also will continue to be a concern.

The future of healthcare is exciting, intriguing and is here! It will be only a short time before we ask "Is there an app for that?"

Kraft D. The Future of Healthcare: Where can Technology Take Us? ASHP 2012 Summer Meeting and Exhibition. Baltimore, MD. June 2012.

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