#601 Medicine’s digital revolution

Dr. Eric Topol

Dr. Eric Topol photo from Leigh Speakers Bureau

Dr. Eric Topol is passionate about bringing the digital revolution to medicine. As the cardiologist and genomics researcher told NBC:

Medicine today is about as much wasteful as one can imagine. So let’s just take drugs in this country, prescription drugs: $350 billion a year, a third of which is total waste. We’re giving a drug that doesn’t work. In fact, even worse now, we’re giving drugs that backfire with side effects. So that’s $100 billion plus just from the prescription medications. And then what about mass screening? Every woman should have a mammogram every year, colonoscopy, PSAs…it’s really medicine dumbed down. It’s treating all human beings the same. That’s crazy. Each of us are [sic] truly unique in every way.

Topol lays out his proposal for a radical restructuring of medicine in his book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care. For Topol, the future of health care is digital. As he told a TED audience:

You check your email while you’re sitting here. In the future you’re going to be checking all your vital signs, all your vital signs: your heart rhythm,your blood pressure, your oxygen, your temperature, etc. This is already available today.

The smart phone is the natural interface. Patients wearing biosensors (or even implanted nano-sensors) linked to monitors can receive highly individualized treatment at a far lower cost than currently possible.

A doctor with a mobile device can check patient data from anywhere, at any time. Pregnant women can check fetal heart rate or intrauterine contractions. Diabetics can monitor glucose. The possibilities are endless, as you can see in the 2009 TED talk below or in a 2012 talk with Medscape.

Organizations such as West Health are doing the research. Companies such as AirStrip Technologies are providing the applications. And Dr. Eric Topol, a physician with vision, is pushing a conservative, balky medical system out of its torpor.

Thanks to Burton Hennig for the NBC video link that let me know about Dr. Topol’s exciting work. No wonder he was chosen Modern Healthcare’s #1 Most Influential Physician Executive in Healthcare for 2012. At a time when health care costs are spiraling out of control globally, this kind forward thinking gives me hope.

Follow Dr. Topol on Twitter and Facebook.

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