Technology is poised to transform how we receive health care in the same way airplanes changed how we travel and smartphones how we communicate. Here’s Vivek Wadhwa in the WSJ with one look at just how radical the change could be:
These enable the measurement of things such as heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and activity levels and can feed data into cloud-based platforms such as HealthKit. They will be packaged in watches, Band-Aids, clothing — and contact lenses. Yes, Google announced in January that it is developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in a person’s tears and transmit these data via an antenna thinner than a human hair. In July, the company said it was licensing the technology to Novartis, enabling it to market it to people with diabetes […]By combining these data with our electronic medical records and the activity and lifestyle information that our smartphones observe, artificial intelligence-based systems will monitor us on a 24/7 basis. They will warn us when we are about to get sick and advise us on what medications we should take and how we should improve our lifestyle and habits.
Some of Wadhwa’s piece is speculative—especially its ending, which shades into transhumanism—but many of the developments the piece points out are already real technologies, or could be very soon. Some of it may not even seem that radical. In the world where Fitbit is already popular, contact lens that can analyze tears are less remarkable that they would have been even ten years ago. But the implications are enormous, especially as the price of this technology comes down over time. The widespread use of cheap devices that can tell you when you will get sick and how to treat yourself without ever seeing a doctor will lead to a very different health care environment than the one we have now.We have not yet begun to see what these products, once they become widely marketed and used, will do to health care. But all signs point to a better, cheaper, more efficient system, and few seem to have processed how revolutionary it could be. Amid debates about health care policy, it’s useful to step back occasionally and see this big picture of imminent technological disruption in the field. The ways technology can and will upend how we get health care needs to be part of the frame within which all health care policy discussions occur—not an afterthought to wonkish attempts to fiddle with the current system.