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May 23, 2012

A doctor is someone with tremendous knowledge of gathering and interpreting biological data and some skill, hopefully, in relating it to the patient.

When I was a kid, Dr. Kaplan would ask me questions, soliciting symptoms of sensation.  He might draw blood or request a “fluid” sample.  He also took x-rays and probed my flesh.  He’d then render an opinion and prescribe action which might be medication or a referral.

Today, a nurse does most of that and there are more tests.  Where Dr. Kaplan had an encyclopedic knowledge of my prior visits and family history, today’s doctor reads notes, looks at tests and renders a diagnosis based on both more and less than yesterday’s doctors.  Today’s doctors rely on more precision data and base their conclusions on that.

Tomorrow, in tandem with the Internet, we’ll be our own doctors.  Most tests will be performed at home with our phones or home kits.  Rather than depend on a doctor’s knowledge, our computers will do quick comparisons, looking at thousands of files to match our tests to similar test results.  For example, I’ll stare into my IPhone’s camera and the image will be bounced against electronic records to diagnose my problem.  Or my genetic tests will be compared with tens of thousands of case studies.  Doctor’s knowledge will be replaced by the match game on the computer.

Perhaps we’ll input our symptoms and a test will be recommended, conclusions drawn and treatment forwarded to Pharmazon (oh to trademark that name, but a European organic nutrition company already coined it) for delivery to your door (or to your bio-3D printer).

Far future?  Nope.  It could happen in as little as 5 years.  The legislation will take longer than the technology.  The electronic records side of things is maybe 2 years away; the technology for home tests… most in as little as a year (and that’s really just building the camera and app to handle imaging); fluid test kits already exist as does the diagnosis algorithms.

What doesn’t exist is the laws to allow it; right now, doctors must prescribe treatment (which SO bugs me; I know what kind of blood pressure medication to take, why should I have to pay a doctor a $100 to renew my prescription when no indicators have changed?).  Now the question is: does Big Medical have politicians in their pocket? (And we all know the answer—if only there was an app to measure the pocket fuzz clinging to our Congressmen)  Because that’s going to be the only hold up.

Are you ready?  Would you trust such a system?  I think it would be far more accurate than today’s process, which is “make the easiest diagnosis and get the patient out so the next one can come in.”

 [Lynette update, since we’re talking medical things and the marvelous medical exception who is Dr. VanLue… there is progress.  Her pain level is way down (but not gone).  Other problems haven’t abated but everything’s heading in the right direction, meaning Dr. Scott was right and the treatments take time to work.]

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