“The future of healthcare is digital and delivered”
I have been repeating this phrase since I binge-watched The Expanse, a series that is set in outer space. In the show, the main characters live much of their lives on spaceships with onboard hospitals. The hospital’s “Autodoc” essentially comprises a full diagnostic wet laboratory with the form factor of the blood pressure cuffs (like the ones at my local pharmacy that I used to play with while waiting). With Autodoc, seemingly any injury or illness can be diagnosed (and treated) without a medical professional involved. Of course, this isn’t real, but it feels realistic (much of the technology exists; warning spoilers).
“The future of healthcare is digital and delivered.” ~Shannon Lantzy
The more relatable analogous use case for ultra-smart onsite diagnostics is in the home. I would love to be able to diagnose my kids’ strep throat or rash with a quick diagnostic test at home, have the results sent and verified to my provider, and have a treatment prescribed and delivered to my home on the same day. We’re almost already there.
This future is in development today
FDA is asking for input on at-home technologies. Some of FDA’s questions include which technologies are best suited for at-home care, and what FDA should do to promote their development. My perspective: Anything that can be made smart, and relieve the burden of primary care while avoiding the predictable unintended consequences of reducing human interactions.
We can be confident that the medical device industry will race to develop anything that can be placed in the home and get paid for by CMS. The math is simple: a diagnostic machine that can be placed in every home that has medical insurance is a positive market bet.
And, thanks to the American tradition of funding research and development, NASA will help us with some of the less immediately marketable technological developments. NASA is preparing to send humans to Mars, and part of that preparation is developing the necessary autonomous clinical care. This real Expanse-like use case drives development in NASA’s Human Health and Performance Laboratories:
Astronauts traveling to Mars will be farther from Earth-based medical care than ever before. The estimated incidence rate for a serious illness or injury requiring emergency care is approximately one person per exploration mission. Crewmembers will need to address medical emergencies with minimal or no real-time support from mission control. Therefore, medical equipment needs to be user-friendly so that a nonexpert dentist or physician can treat other crewmembers.
“The future of healthcare is digital and delivered” ~Shannon Lantzy, 2019
“The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.” ~William Gibson, 2003
Isn’t it thrilling?
~Shannon Lantzy, the Optimistic Optimizer