Could a Smartphone Be The Future of Medicine?

Could a doctor one day be able to prescribe 4 or 5 apps instead of 4 or 5 medications? Dr. Eric Topol says yes.

Dr. Topol, Chief Academic Officer of Scripps Health in San Diego, CA, expanded on this digital health transformation in a recent interview with John Nosta, a top health influencer blogging on Forbes.com: (read the entire interview here.)

What is the role of the consumer / patient in driving digital health?

We are ending the era of medical information asymmetry, with most/all information in the doctor’s domain. The consumer is now center stage—he/she will drive this new medicine with a rebooted model of physician partnership. It is the consumer’s data, the consumer’s smartphone, and the consumer’s choice of who, when and how to share.

How does telemedicine augment the evolution of digital health? Will patients need a device to more effectively communicate with a healthcare professional?

Use of secure video, virtual office visits to substantially replace physical visits, and remote monitoring to pre-empt the need for hospitals (except for the critically ill and surgical operations, medical procedures) can all be fostered with advanced telemedicine solutions, sensors, biocomputing, AI, predictive analytics, and the current digital landscape. 

What are some “bold and aggressive” predictions that will catch our readers off guard?

I’ve touched on a few. The diminishing need for hospitals and physical office visits. The stethoscope eventually becoming a relic. I believe that DNA sequencing and other omics (RNAseq, microbiome, epigenomics, metabolomics) will be used up front for most cancers, serious difficult to diagnose conditions, and as the mainstay for new drug development. Perhaps one of the biggest will be embedded nanosensors, in our bloodstream, that put our bodies under constant surveillance and prevent particular conditions such as autoimmune, cancer, or heart attacks—by capturing a specific bio-signal and transmitting that to the smartphone. It’s a little ways off, but might be especially transformative. It brings a lot of digital medicine together and exemplifies what all this technology can achieve.

We’ve written in the past about technology transforming what the future of healthcare looks like, and how new technologies might not only affect the delivery or quality of care, but also be able to improve the engagement between physicians and patients. The idea of telemedicine, as used by the VA, is especially interesting and has the power to truly redefine healthcare as we know it. As we enter a more cost-conscious healthcare future, more and more of these innovations will become commonplace, and will truly affect positive change in the ways in which we receive our healthcare.

What do you see resulting from these evolutions of digital health? Any innovations you see being especially transformative?

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