Guest Column: Occupy medicine: a digital revolution - Opinion - Explorer

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Guest Column: Occupy medicine: a digital revolution

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Here’s one you don’t hear every day, “the smart phone will be the hub of the future of medicine. And it will be your health-medical dashboard.”

A 500-word or less column on medicine is a tall order, but that simple quote from Dr. Eric Topol - geneticist and cardiologist with Scripps in La Jolla - can certainly set the stage for a big idea of where we’re headed.

While debates rage over patient care and the Affordable Care Act, Dr. Topol insists, “healthcare today is about as wasteful as one can imagine.”

Medicine, he says, has been “dumbed down” with expensive and unnecessary screenings. We’re treating people like cattle, he says, and it can’t go on.

Prescription medicine is a 350-billion-dollar-a-year enterprise and $100 billion of that is for drugs that don’t work or even worse, cause serious side effects.

Now along comes over five billion cell phones, the Internet and a whole new kind of medicine that few could have imagined: “wireless medicine.”

These days, Dr. Topol says he’s prescribing a lot more apps than medicines. The apps can perform an EKG with the touch of a finger, perform blood, saliva, urine and sweat tests. With a sensor on your body, your phone can monitor glucose levels, and coming soon, a blood sensor that can alert you to a possible heart attack.  Much or all of this can be handled remotely with your doctor assessing your “health-medical dashboard” in real time. Incredible!

Dr. Topol, of course, is not alone in his criticism of America’s Health Care system that many still stubbornly call the best in the world.

Dr. Walter Bortz with Stanford’s School of Medicine says, “The central strut of ObamaCare, currently under intense political consideration, is the issue of mandatory insurance coverage.” But coverage of what, he asks, “more CT Scans and dangerous drugs, excessive superspecializtion, a doctor for every freckle and procedure?”

Dr. Bortz and a growing number of health professionals agree there must be a new health care paradigm from a system with profits at its core and personal bankruptcy a tragic side effect. His bottom line message: “It’s not hospital administrators, big business, big government, democrats, republicans, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh.  It’s you.  You are the only one to take back medicine.”

And it’s very much beginning to look like Dr. Eric Topol’s smart phone and one just like it for you, will lead to the Creative Destruction of Medicine - as Dr. Topol’s book is titled.

Because we’re all unique, Dr. Topol says, “patients need to take ownership, seize the moment and the data and help call the shots.”

By the time politicians settle their arguments over affordable health care for everyone, everything may have changed.  There is a revolution underway.

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