The Second Machine Age: 5 Things Our Kids’ Kids Won’t Know about Healthcare

    1. A Jawbone used to be a wearable device for geeks.
    2. Walgreens used to be a pharmacy where you went to get your prescriptions.
    3. You could only get a prescription after an in-person visit to the doctor.
    4. To test your blood pressure, you had to wear a rubber sleeve, not just put your socks on.
    5. You went to see a doctor when you felt off color and, strangely, you felt better just sitting in reception waiting while people all around you were coughing.

Transportation and retail aren’t the only industries being redefined by technology and our insatiable need to automate pretty much every aspect of our lives. Healthcare is too.

In this third installment of my “what life will look like in the new Industrial Age” series, I’m looking at what‘s in store for us with healthcare.

So, my fascination with healthcare was sparked by a seminar on detoxification and metabolism I attended recently. It seems good health these days is attainable with a discipline of 20% exercise, 30% nutrition and 50% detox. Yes, massive detox followed by much better eating.

What we put into our bodies has changed so substantially that it seems a large majority of today’s illnesses can be traced to very acidic PH levels. Our livers (our major internal cleaner) simply can’t keep up with the toxins we’re putting into our bodies (think: food preservatives, medications, diet soda, etc.), and our bodies are starting to exhibit signs of malfunctions.

However, rather than treating the root cause of our illnesses (what we’re ingesting), we go get prescriptions to treat the symptoms, which further freaks out our livers, and we use water to surround the toxins in a sort of quarantine.

Now, I’m no doctor, but it seems only common sense to spend as much time maintaining ourselves as we do our vehicles. However, we don’t.

But that’s about to change. Let me explain.

So, I’m fascinated by data, I’ve worn a Jawbone UP since their inception and I actively monitor my food, exercise and sleep patterns. In fact, I want more data, and I’m not alone. I haven’t gone to a meeting either internally or externally in the last year without seeing someone wearing a Jawbone UP, a Fitbit or a Nike FuelBand.

And, predictably, these devices will get more accurate with more sensors and will be WiFi- or Bluetooth-enabled; they will be always connected.

In short order, insurance companies will glom onto the fact they can reward or penalize customers based on this rich data so they will offer the bands and access as incentives. This will create new privacy issues and increase the risk of security breaches, but the trend will take off.

We’ll track everything from heart rate, to steps walked, to recovery from exercise, to liver functioning, and then some. Big data (combined with technology) will provide us with a whole lot more visibility about how our engines are running under the hood. It will also make it a whole lot easier for us take action.

Remote diagnostics, preventative care, proactive consultation, medication reminders, and even the feeling of our favorite doctor being with us no matter where we travel will all be possible.

Autonomic prescriptions will be sent to us by mail; there won’t be a need for a pharmacy. If we’re feeling slightly off color, we’ll have the data to validate our symptoms and likely the analytics to help work out the remedy.

I envisage calendar invites being created based on correlated anomalies; the ability to track locational viruses by running Big Data analytics on bulk patient data; and a true, global real-time view of the collective population.

Science fiction movies turned into nonfiction? Close.

As with the changes in the transportation and retail industries, the transformation we’re about to experience in healthcare stems from innovating the possible and expeditiously handling the mountains of small data sprawl that will result. Billions and billions of small data packets will need to be stored, secured, collated, redirected, analyzed and acted upon.

Healthcare service centers will be du jour; homes will be enhanced with additional health sensors for in-home help. The possibilities are endless, but they can only happen if the boundaries of technology are pushed.

Now, I bet companies responsible for auditing and securing patient data will be a little less excited about some of these massive changes. Regulations such as HIPPA are complex and the amount of data about to be thrust at systems is going to put them to the test. Also, I bet many of you will be a little reticent about sharing more personal information based upon findings from the recent EMC Privacy Index.

However, I believe the benefits far outweigh the risk, and I for one will welcome the dawn of this digital age. Here’s to better health!

About the Author: Guy Churchward