Keynote Speaker Outlines Future of Medicine
Laying out a vision for the future of healthcare, Saturday's keynote speaker at AAMI's 2012 Conference & Expo in Charlotte, NC, said modern medicine will involve putting powerful, portable, low-cost, and accurate technology in the hands of the patient. Hundreds of clinical engineers and other healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals were reminded of just how extraordinary a time we are living in by Daniel Kraft, MD, CEO of IntelliMedicine, executive director of FutureMed, and medical track chair at Singularity University.
A physician by training, a pilot, scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur (not to mention astronaut finalist), Kraft described convergent technologies and the future of healthcare with infectious enthusiasm. The science fiction medicine of Star Trek, Fantastic Voyage, and Gattaca are already here, according to Kraft, to be realized via the process of technological convergence.
In a dizzying array of unexpected symbiosis, Kraft described the connecting and layering of a range of new technologies that have given rise to, for example, iBGStar (a glucose meter integrated with an iPhone), real-time organ imaging (MRI, layered with CT and PET scanning), AliveCor (an iPhone with a single electrode that measures ECG), mobile ultrasound scanners that upload information simultaneously to a data cloud, and a urine-sensitive mobile phone that can rapidly test for STDs and is currently only available in France.
Kraft estimated that the exponential evolution of technologies, illustrated by the fact that the average Joe today with a smartphone has more power at his fingertips that the U.S. President had in 1970 with all the computers in the country, will end up "democratizing medicine." The key trends or mantra are "faster, smaller, cheaper, and better."
However, the road to the MRI that can knock out tumors, 3-D "printing" of organs using stem cells, robotic exoskeletons, artificial retinas, nanomedicine and virtual colonoscopies is not all smooth. "You are all in a very fast field," cautioned Kraft. "Devices don't always speak to each other," and the biggest challenge of the paradigm shift to digital is the accompanying explosion of data.
Out of disorder, however, there is always an opportunity to rebuild and create. "We have a chance to reinvent medicine," said Kraft, pointing out that for example, low-cost Skype and other video-based medical consultations could make diagnosis affordable for millions globally who would otherwise have little access to healthcare. Kraft also envisions that convergent technologies will give rise to "stage zero medicine" that is predictive, preventative, and personalized, targeting and treating disease at the earliest stages.
What does all this mean in practical terms for HTM professionals? Kraft advised that with technology, medical devices, and phones merging in new ways, healthcare technology management professionals should be asking, "How do we leverage new technology to enable us? How can we start to integrate all these technologies?"
Posted: June 3, 2012