Imagining The Possibilities

On the heels of the release of the movie “The Martian,” NASA confirmed the presence of water on Mars. Sometimes, we Earthlings experience odd happenstances like this. But it underscores the quantum leaps and accelerated compression of technological breakthroughs and their applications to potentially solve human problems, while often, simultaneously creating new ones.

So why did I open with stuff about Mars? Well, our future existence relies on the colonization of other Earth-like planets, and the discoveries of today will shape the health landscape of the future.  We’re already enabling huge advances in bionics and cryonics; a few trips to Mars and, eventually, there will be humans residing there that are not Earthlings. This is both cool and surreal.

To think that within only a few hundred years, we went from someone flying a kite in a storm to discover electricity, to people 3D printing their own medications and custom prosthetics. Again, the acceleration of discovery to application is pretty incredible.

What we have been discovering is coming together to inform the future of humankind and our health and well-being as a species. We are re-engineering viruses to trick our immune systems to fight cancer. We are dissecting the human genetic code and leveraging stem cell research in an attempt to avoid such diseases altogether. We are replacing patients’ joints and organs in hospitals with new and novel ways that are minimally invasive. Patients are going from operating tables to their own dinner tables within days as opposed to weeks or months.

What’s most compelling to me is what the availability of affordable and accessible technological connectivity is doing for people’s health.

Smartphones and wearables, with their ability to connect with proximity-based sensors, will allow much more than a smoother transaction at a coffee shop. Eventually, we won’t have much need for that front window at the doctor’s office. The office staff will know when you are en route and why you are visiting.

Much in the way Houston knows every stat necessary to keep astronauts safe and efficient through constant monitoring, so will our doctors be able to review the data and ensure that the patient experience in their offices involves a much more substantial and holistic discussion about our health — and well beyond the formulaic sense of being interviewed by our doctor. All the while, we will each have greater insight into our daily behaviors and course-correct as we see fit, for ourselves and for our families.

In the U.S., we are already seeing trends leading to greater accessibility for our health needs, with neighborhood clinics, the ability to obtain tests and immunizations at our local CVS or Target stores, and specialists centers moving out of hospitals and closer to major retail hubs. These are significant brick-and-mortar shifts in the health system. The virtual shifts will soon follow, and eventually the entire infrastructure will look very little like today.

I’m very excited to see what’s next as people take greater control of their health and improve their partnership with their doctors. Science and technology are enabling new and different connections in fantastic ways. Especially since no one is worried about little green men attacking our planet.

This article was originally published in MediaPost