How Digital Technology Can Personalize Health Care

How Digital Technology Can Personalize Health Care (iPhone image)

Digital technology has transformed virtually all aspects of how we live, and now it's ready to revolutionize health care. In The Creative Destruction of Medicine, Dr. Eric Topal makes a convincing argument that the digital revolution will deconstruct how health care is delivered. For example, hand-held digital devices will provide precise diagnostic information virtually anywhere and transmit it instantaneously wherever needed. Smart phones and e-tablets will give individuals access to applications allowing them to understand and manage their health or disease. Inefficient, inconvenient, and expensive physician office or hospital visits will be far less necessary as distant monitoring goes online. The power of digital technology in health care is clear, but what hasn't been described is how such devices can be used to facilitate the creation of a better health care system.

A major flaw in health care today is that it's focused on treatment of disease events after they develop rather than on preventing them. This approach is partly responsible for the massive increase in preventable chronic diseases. Digitalizing today's "fix what's broken" approach to health care would be akin to adding GPS to a horse and buggy. While improved technologies can enhance the effectiveness of treating disease events, the real opportunity lies in using them to create a new approach to care that enables individuals to improve their health, diminish their chance to develop preventable diseases, and minimize the consequences of diseases if they occur. A more rational model of care is within our grasp, and digitalization can make it far more effective. This approach is termed personalized health care.

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