Monday, May 01, 2006

Digital Medicine: The Promise and the Peril

Digital Medicine: The Promise and the Peril.
" The potential benefits of this digital transformation to improve the health of individuals and communities are hard to overestimate. They are truly astounding. What has become abundantly clear is that the availability of information is the key to overcoming virtually all of the barriers we now face to improving personal and public health. Think about it. If we could always get the right information to the right place at the right time for the right person to use, there is no reason why we couldn't:

* kindle widespread adoption of healthy lifestyles,
* maximize people's adherence to proven preventative practices,
* make much more timely diagnoses,
* render far more accurate prognoses,
* select the most appropriate treatment for each individual, every time,
* eliminate the unaccountable variations we now see in practice patterns across the country,
* improve dramatically patients' compliance with medical advice, and
* reduce by orders of magnitude the alarming number of errors the system now produces.

And providing the right information to the right place at the right time for the right person is precisely what the new technological tools that will be at your disposal are increasingly able to do. Both for physicians and for patients.

Given the facts already on the ground, it's not too difficult to foresee some of the major changes in the way medicine will be practiced in your lifetime. I realize the hazards of forecasting. As Yogi Berra once said, "Predicting is risky business - especially about the future." Yogi's caution notwithstanding, let me make ten really safe forecasts. Really safe, because most of these ten futures are already here in some places.

1.Every individual will maintain a lifelong electronic file of their comprehensive health information, and will personally, or through a designated surrogate, authorize access to appropriate providers of that portion of the information needed to deal with current problems.
2.Individuals will maintain their own personalized, medical web pages to which their doctors and others, as directed, will post relevant information and reminders tailored to their specific needs and desires.
3.Doctors and patients will routinely communicate via e-mail and via tele-visits, reducing substantially the hassles now associated with making and keeping routine office or clinic appointments.
4.Using sophisticated on-line devices, individuals will monitor their own health status at home as frequently as necessary to maintain health and to comply with physician-prescribed or self-selected disease management programs.
5.Individuals with all manner of acute and chronic diseases and disabilities will routinely access Internet sites to join virtual communities of similarly afflicted people for support and to share experiences and advice.
6.Many patients with stable chronic illnesses will choose to maintain a cyber-relationship via the net with a respected source of specialized expertise, wherever in the world it may reside, to meet their needs for on-going monitoring and updated advice."
This is an excerpt from a speech given in 2003 by AAMC President , Dr Jordan J. Cohen

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