The Future of Digital Health

by Jason Brandt (@jasondmg3)


Daniel Kraft of Singularity University gave a TED Talk earlier this year on the future of digital health, in which he explained how “leveraging cross-disciplinary exponentially growing technologies was affecting the future of health and wellness. Its a rapid-fire, brilliant, fast-paced 18 minutes and 22 seconds worth checking out, but we wanted to pull out of couple of points.

The challenges of cost and aging. He correctly pointed out that two of the major challenges healthcare faces are skyrocketing costs and the rapidly aging population. Kraft notes that we spend most of our money on the last 20% of life. Its our responsibility to help ourselves and healthcare professionals to shift that, to put all that time and effort – and less money – toward preventing disease before it ever happens.

The opportunities of small. Hes particularly passionate about the potential of smartphones, and how much computing power they put in each of our pockets. Furthermore, he notes, the shrinking of technology enables it not only to be hand-held like a smartphone, but tiny in terms of swallowable pills and informative contact lenses, virtual colonoscopies and scarless surgery done using robots and cameras slipped down the digestive tract.

The new paradigm ahead. He refers to P4 medicine – the ability of nascent technology to help us create healthcare that is predictive, preventative, personalized and participatory. And in the oncology jargon of his field, Kraft is looking forward to Stage Zero medicine – catching disease not even at its earliest stages (Stage I as opposed to Stage II, III or IV), but before it even has a chance to happen. As he says, “As a cancer doctor, Im looking forward to being out of a job.

The real purpose. Kraft points out that augmenting patient care with digital technology is, yes, very cool, but its importance lies in its ability to better diagnose, to earlier diagnose, and to leave more time for actual patient care. We sometimes focus too much on the technological capabilities and forget that technology cant offer human empathy. Our purpose – the purpose of everyone who does anything in the healthcare industry – should be to help keep people from getting sick in the first place, and truly taking care of the people who do still fall ill. The technology is there to make that possible.

What projects are you working on that answer these challenges?

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