Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Future Medical Practice Is Here

Your smartphone is your door to your medical care.* We now have technology that will make going to the doctor less frequent and less expensive and far more convenient. Are you aware that in undeveloped countries doctors are few and far between? And medical tests are often out of the question because of lack of access. Yet technology is changing that.

For years technology has made it possible for doctors to see patients via teleconferencing/Skype. It's been used in the U.S. prisons when it isn't practical to take the prisoners to doctors or hospitals.They can now connect with clinics or nurses via the Smartphone anywhere there is wifi.

But technology has taken it way beyond that. They have developed apps that will test blood sugar and other blood tests, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, etc. And the results can be analyzed almost instantly with results to you and your doctor.

There are even apps that will test your genome type and screen for potential genetic disease. And recently I saw an article that explained an app that can change the genetic structure of a cell in order to cure certain cancers!

There are also algorithms that diagnose illnesses with greater accuracy than humans given the same data about the patient. "With demographic, physiologic, anatomic, biologic and environmental data about a particular individual can be used to define one's medical essence."*

And with the proliferation of wearable wireless sensors, like FitBit and others, physiologic data is collected and relayed like a smartphone. By way of electronic monitors Individuals can transmit information from their body to medical professionals [or medical data centers] to monitor heart rate, pacemaker activity, blood oxygen levels, weight changes, blood pressure, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response, eye pressure, blood glucose, brain waves, intracranial pressure, muscle movements, and many other metrics.

"The microphone of the smartphone can be used to quantify components of lung function and analyze one's voice to gauge mood or make the dignosis or Parkinson's disease or schizophrenia. One's breath can be digitized to measure a large number of compounds, such as nitric oxide or organic chemicals, which could enable smartphones to track lung function or diagnose certain cancers.  Beyond all those wearable and non invasive sensors, nanochips are being developed to be embedded in the bloodstream to monitor the appearance of tumor DNA, immune activation, or genomic signals indicative of a forthcoming heart attack or stroke."  It is used to track the progress of chemotherapy in shrinking/eliminating cancerous growths.

We've all seen technological advances in scans of the anatomy of individuals beyond Xray - MRI, CT, nuclear scanning, and ultrasound - that define one's anatomy without surgery. All these scans however rely on access to expensive hospital and clinic-based equipment. There is now an emerging use of pocket devices that obtain high-resolution ultrasounds or X-rays making assessment of individual's anatomy much easier, faster, and cheaper. A smartphone or some other small device can now perform the physical exam of the eyes, ears, neck vessels, heart, lungs, abdomen and fetus, and share share medical imaging that enables the patient to fully review his/her anatomy on a portable device. All this is already available.

So why are you still waiting weeks or months to see a specialist, waiting hours for your turn to see the doctor, paying outrageous amounts of money, to get vague explanations of what is happening in your body?  That's an easy one to answer.

While the technology is changing at breakneck speed, the medical profession is not. They are highly invested in the status quo. Why would they support advances that minimize their control over diagnosis and treatment? Why would they support development of technology that makes them less relevant? For them to change would mean a whole culture change in the field of medicine. While some places in the world are using these technologies where medical care is inaccessible, we in developed countries are being left behind. Hard to imagine that our medical care is less advanced than that of the more undeveloped parts of the world.

But change will not be held in check for long. As we become more aware of what is happening around the world we, as consumers, will demand better care. One reason the change will reach us is that it will be less expensive. Insurance will push for lower costs, as will we all.

We must take ownership of our medical information, as we have every right to our records and to information about diseases. We are smarter consumers now that we have access to the internet's vast body of information on illness and disease. And we have the power as a group to demand easier access and lower prices.

Together we can make lives better with better medical access in all countries in the world. With wifi access spreading everywhere, so then can medical care. The change is happening. Be part of it!
, by Eric Topol.

*The Patient Will See You Now, the future of medicine is in your hands, by Eric Topol

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