POV: 2032 – the first colonists have left for Mars. These colonists were selected for having the best mental health, the best physical health and the best genetic makeup to tolerate adverse environmental conditions. Upon landing, one of the colonists experiences a sight issue – the medical station on Mars did not have any devices for further diagnosis – the only observable clues were his vitals reflecting on his space suit which were showing normal. The team reports back to Earth’s space station but each response takes 20 mins to relay.
What if life on Mars faces the same kind of experience that a patient faces on Earth today?
This was the setting of a ‘Future of Healthcare’ a virtual brown bag series organised by Healthcare Transformers under Roche Industries titled: ‘Healthcare needs a trip to Mars‘, presented by Dr. Bertalan Mesko. He is the Director of The Medical Futurist Institute and a geek physician/genomic professor analysing how science fiction technologies can become a reality in medicine and healthcare.
- Healthcare is facing more of a cultural transformation problem than a technological revolution.
- Community activation is needed to create a culture of prevention to drive preventive healthcare. We have better accessibility and understanding of our health than conventional medical practitioners – seek healthcare services that appreciate this.
- For investors/startups: don’t worry about speculation on the healthcare investment bubble – startups fail because they are not solving an actual problem or clinical need.
Dr. Mesko identifies 5 key elements to building an ideal healthcare system:
- Accessibility (financially and physically)
- Personalised (lifestyle insights, genetics)
- Preventive (better than cure)
- Augmented (5G)
- Humanistic (empathy)
The above isn’t new at all and the overarching question for the sesh was – why is it still not a reality today?
He points out, that the healthcare ecosystem was never designed for technical innovations:
- Doctor shortages
- Lack of trust
- Lack of money (a socialist ecosystem does not have enough $ for innovation)
- Private healthcare ecosystem has the best innovations but it is only available if you have $
- Humans in healthcare don’t like change
Healthcare on earth is facing more of a cultural transformation than a technological revolution.
A probably well-known cultural transformation story is IBM’s Deep Blue and DeepMind’s AlphaZero – both computer programs designed (differently) to master chess. The machines eventually defeated the best players in the world. It was a profound and unbelievable win for computer scientists. Now, every chess player/coach uses AI to improve their game.
In the medical context would be the stethoscope. It was invented in 1816 by French physician and musician René Laennec. Only until the 1980s (more than 100 years!) that it became synonym with being a doctor because using any device to for a pulse check was previously thought of as “against the art of healthcare”.
As in many industries, there is a notion of fear that AI will replace humans… and I think Dr. Mesko made a good point in response to this.
“AI does mean automation but it does not mean it will replace medical professionals. However, medical professionals who use AI are more likely to replace those who do not.”
We already have the tools and technology but not the adoption, adaptability and application.
So how does going to Mars help change the healthcare industry?
Dr. Mesko urges healthcare professionals to embrace the ‘Patient Design’ approach. This means involving patients as part of the medical team – this means giving patients more voice in understanding and deciding what’s best for them – teasing it as the pre-step towards industry-wide adoption of AI in healthcare.
When asked about the future of healthcare in Web 3 / on the blockchain, he shared that the main use of blockchain is to enable patients to control how their health data is being monetised (citing DNA and insurance companies). The question is no longer a question about whether our data can be kept private in tech, but “How much of our privacy are we willing to give up for a chance at a longer and healthier life?”
When asked if the digital health investment sphere is a bubble, he suggests that the “big bubble” is not what we should be speculating about – but looking closely at the many small bubbles – startups fail because even though they have a good idea with a grand vision, it does not solve an actual problem or a clinical need.
The set-up was a fun take on the perspective of our healthcare on Earth but coming back to present reality…
Conventional medicine has made a tremendous contribution to curing diseases. But it is no longer sufficient. Adoption of healthcare innovations by the healthcare industry aside, the paradigm shift for better healthcare lies in the power of the people who have the ability to demand it.
Today, we have a combination of digital health devices/apps that can measure our sleep, exercise, stress, DNA and microbiome. There’s so much more we can understand about our lifestyle, socio-environment influences and genetic make-up. This is an opportunity for medical practitioners to take a holistic/integrative approach to preventing diseases by diving deeper into the potential root causes of a person’s health state.
In Singapore, we are fortunate to have a progressive mentality towards healthcare. Recently, PM Lee announced a nationwide shift to take a preventive healthcare approach. This gives us a good base to test and run our vision for universal preventative healthcare.
In the community
In AUDACITY, we currently support three preventative healthcare initiatives. If any of them interests you, don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly.
Happily Ever After is a community-centric health-tech company rethinking the health ecosystem from the ground up. With the help of web3 technologies, the team’s mission is to add 10 billion years of healthy life to the planet. Join HEA’s growing community: http://hea.care/
EOT is redefining medicine with health technologies. They develop and deploy telehealth booth and health technology ecosystems with a mission to enable equitable health monitoring in all neighbourhoods. Reach them on LinkedIn or get the latest updates on what’s happening on Facebook / Instagram.
Sleeper Cell is an R&D program helping Sleep x Health researchers advance their studies into applicable interventions into the community. For collaborations email email@example.com