mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Reforming Delivery
A Glimpse of Health Care Yet To Come

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    Don’t overlook the frenzied resistance of the medical profession to innovation.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Some people like having their refrigerator connected to the Internet. That way it can call for service if something is going awry. Some other people have discovered that hackers can (and did) turn their refrigerators into spam-bots, spewing out 1/4 million clandestine messages.

    The point is that not everyone is EVER going to want to have his/her body hooked up to corporations and government on a routine basis. Some of this stuff will be really cool and some of it will be as silly as a refrigerator that can call anywhere in the world.

  • Eurydice

    Oh man, I can just see us turning into a race of hypochondriacs. I don’t know about the system being better or cheaper or more efficient, but it will certainly be all-pervasive. As part of the debate we might ask ourselves what a constant preoccupation with every sneeze will do to overall quality of health, physical and mental.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service