I was recently invited to present my thoughts on the Future of Medicine, based on my book of the same name, to the worldwide medical affairs group at Becton Dickinson, the giant medical device and diagnostics company headquartered in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. Their senior vice president for medical affairs, Dr David Durack, requested that I review the basic megatrends developing as a result of the scientific advances from genomics, stem cells transplantation, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, imaging, operating room technologies and the digital medical record. From these I proposed five basic megatrends that will significantly impact medical care moving forward – the development of custom tailored medicine; much more attention to preventive care; markedly improved ability to repair, restore and replace organs, tissues and even cells; greater safety for patients: and, finally, digital medical information instantly available anytime and anyplace.
BD had me present via videoconferencing which eliminated the need for travel yet allowed them to see me and my slides and I could see/hear them concurrently.
Their group asked many very challenging questions after my presentation and presented some excellent concepts. They suggested, for example, that in addition to positive trends that will improve medicine, I might also consider negative trends and their impact. Examples were government instability in many developing countries, climate change, and the current financial challenges. Each could and probably already has created major adverse consequences for the delivery of medical care worldwide. Another area of interest was the implication of privacy on the development of genomic information; would having genomic data determined on yourself lead to insurance denials or higher priced premiums? A real concern of many despite the legislation that passed last year to limit this possibility. And what was the scientific basis for the use of complementary medicine approaches such as acupuncture, meditation and massage? Here we discussed acupuncture for osteoarthritis, the nausea of chemotherapy and low back pain; massage for neonates in the intensive care unit and mind body approaches combined with diet, exercise and support groups for those with coronary artery disease.
The final question was what would I write differently if doing the book over again? For that one I had an answer – updates of course and some added sections on pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and nanomedicine/biomaterials. But The Future of Medicine only dealt with medical advances, not the myriad problems of getting the new approaches to the patient. There are all too many problems with the delivery of health care today and, to compound them, there are some very powerful forces that will lead to delivery changes in the coming years no matter what happens with health care reform. This bog attempts to address these.