The Digital Doctor’s Bag of the Future

I was at an event the other day when someone spoke about what the “Doctor’s Bag” should contain now, based on the digital technologies that have already emerged. It made me think what it might look like in 30 or 50 years’ time. Some of this may be controversial – tell us what you think.

By Clive Flashman, Global Healthcare Strategist, CSC

The first thing to say as a given, is that doctors will have access to a single view of the patient’s record, with all of the relevant and up-to-date information built into it that they need. This record will be “owned” by the patient (not the provider), and access to it given at their discretion.

Diagnosis will still have an element of symptomatic description, but increasingly will be based on internal and genetic-based profiling. By internal, I mean the ability of nanites to continually traverse a patient’s body, looking for issues and sending data back to diagnostic systems that triage the importance of these problems. This is “whole person surveillance” of the future. Doctors may know that you are going to be ill before you are and be able to send drones with precision medicines to your home for you to take.

Potentially, you may not even need the medicine. Those nanites may be able to alleviate some issues themselves, like super T-cells. In some other instances, external technology could be used to alleviate symptoms. Drug companies may find their ever-ballooning demand starting to reduce unless they get on board. Perhaps by developing their own nano-technology based delivery mechanisms.

Genetic profiling is becoming faster and cheaper all the time. I’d like to think that in 50 years’ time, it could be ubiquitous, but data governance and security issues could hinder that goal. Instead, doctors may carry handy genetic profiling tools with them that do a quick profile focusing on certain types of markers, much as fast turnaround blood tests work now. Instead of glucometer, think geneometer. This would be a one-off test with the data retained by the patient, not the doctor.

wearablesWhile there are lots of devices now to monitor people – sensors and wearables are booming through consumerization – they tend to focus on those with chronic conditions, or the worried well. We need end-to-end systems that are geared towards changing lifestyles and delivering cognitive behavioral therapy or neuro linguistic programming in the most beneficial ways possible. I think we will become a lot better at linking personal rewards and incentives to health and wellness. The impact of how we choose to live our lives will be writ large for us to see. As in all things, this will appeal to some and turn off others. For those people it demotivates, the adaptive systems will quickly learn how best to tap into their mental reward systems and nudge them to make changes. We must not underestimate the types of mentally based systems that are needed to improve society’s health and wellness.

The Internet of Things will have peaked and then rationalized. People may not want their fridge to place an automatic order at the nearest supermarket. However, the ability to know what is in your fridge, tap into an array of recipe repositories and (using prior experience) suggest the top three recipes that you might like to make for dinner – sticking within a certain calorie intake and time limit – might be very useful.

You’ll note in my last point that I referred to “experience.” The future will be marked by increased levels of contextual and situational awareness. In fact, if the digital age is to be successful, it will be judged on those two aspects perhaps more than anything else.

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