Boss of Your Own Body

The debate over healthcare reform is purgatorial, but that’s always in the context of finding ways to make healthcare more affordable (or affordable at all). But what if healthcare changed so fundamentally, it rendered that discourse moot? And what if the tools to do that weren’t some far-off technology, but the stuff we use everyday today?

When I was forwarded this piece on, I thought it was just another article about the IBM supercomputer Watson sifting through the medial literature to help doctors with pitiful human brains diagnose illness and disease. And while that is undeniably cool, it’s kind of expected, as far as the future of medicine goes. I mean, in my head it was always that robot on Hoth giving Luke Skywalker a new hand.

Turns out, the article discusses how today’s data gathering tools and mobile technology can change medicine from being “patrimonial” to making you the boss of your own body.

It’s a report on a speech given by Dr. Eric Topol at the HIMSS13 conference in New Orleans. Dr. Topol is a professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute. According to him,

“You have a doctor-patient relationship that today is based on asymmetry. A lot of information to the doctor, very little for the patient,” he said. “We’re about having … information parody. That’s exciting. We can get away from this superiority of physicians to patients. That has got to go.”

I like my doctor and all, but the idea of giving him the same role as my accountant in my life is an intriguing one.

What can certainly be said is that even though medicine is a cutting-edge in its own way (advanced imagery technology, new pharmaceutical discoveries, etc.), it’s kind of behind where the rest of the world is as far as everyday technologies. Honestly, my hospital only recently switched to an all-electronic system over paper records.

The best quote from the piece might be when Dr. Topol put all of healthcare in perspective:

“We’re still in this Voltaire era about doctors prescribing medicines of which they know little for patients they know even less and of human beings of which they know nothing.”

Healthcare is behind. But it’s understandable in a way. It’s been pretty busy.

Photo credit: Army Medicine, Flickr