Posted on November 3, 2020 by Daniel Kraft, MD
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care changed overnight. Old processes and business models were tossed out; our every assumption had to be questioned. While no one would ever wish for such an unprecedented public health emergency, there is no denying that COVID-19 has triggered years’ worth of innovation in health care within a few months, from accelerating the use of virtualized care, to new forms of point of care diagnostics. If there’s anything positive to be gained from this crisis, perhaps it’s having the opportunity — and obligation — to think collaboratively about bringing health care into the future.
When I did my internship at a world-class teaching hospital, the tools of our trade included paper forms and fax machines. Visiting again years later, I found those same technologies and processes in place — as though not a day had passed within the hospital’s walls.
But increasingly, the future of the hospital isn’t within the four walls of the hospital or clinic. We are increasingly moving from hospital to home, from hospital to the “homespital.” To date, the hospital model has been primarily one of “sick care,” rather than of true health care. The data in this system is intermittent and episodic; we tend to wait for patients to walk through the doors already experiencing illness. The health system of the future is proactive, not reactive; continuous, not episodic, and increasingly personalized and participatory. It is a system in which all of us can contribute to improving health care across the continuum.
Of course, this approach requires vast amounts of data. The breaking wave of wearables (and “insideables,” “implantables,” even “underwearables”) and the medical internet of things is providing access to that individualized health information — but all too often in a siloed fashion, with exponentially growing data sets remaining unconnected to each other. To transform this data into knowledge — and from there to utility — we’ll need to better connect these disparate sources, leveraging artificial intelligence to integrate and synthesize them. From big data to personalized, actionable insights.
This personalized, precision medicine is based on you, the individual. Your data, your biomarkers, your daily habits. It discards the one-size-fits all approach. We can see this principle in other consumer technologies. If streaming platforms can make personalized suggestions for you based on your viewing habits and interests, why can’t health technologies provide the same level of individual service?
By making their health information available to them, we also empower individuals to own their health, to make sense of their data and to collaborate with their circle of care as true partners in the health care journey. As we know, when patients understand what is happening within their bodies, they can stay more engaged in their health. With precise, predictive care tailored to the individual, we won’t just be adding years to our lives — we’ll be adding life to our years.
The pandemic has given many of us a hard lesson in exponential growth. While certainly not desirable in an epidemiological context, it can lead to unprecedented innovation in a technological one. Collaboration across industries and disciplines is only fuelling that progress; COVID-19 has shown how we can quickly come together to effect substantial change. When it comes to health care, we have the opportunity not to just predict the future, but to create a better one for all of us.
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Daniel Kraft is a Stanford and Harvard trained physician-scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and innovator and is serving as the Chair of the XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance Task Force. With over 25 years of experience in clinical practice, biomedical research and healthcare innovation, Kraft has served as Faculty Chair for Medicine at Singularity University since its inception, and is the Founder and Chair of Exponential Medicine, a program that explores convergent, rapidly developing technologies and their potential in biomedicine and healthcare. Following undergraduate degrees from Brown University and medical school at Stanford, Daniel was Board Certified in both Internal Medicine & Pediatrics after completing a Harvard residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital & Boston Children's Hospital, and fellowships in hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Stanford.