The Inevitable March Towards Outsourced Self-Care

American politicians may have done their best to try and kill Obamacare, and while the fate of 11 million Americans health care coverage may be tested once again after the 2016 U.S. election, one thing is becoming clearly unstoppable – there is an inevitable move afoot towards outsourced health diagnosis and self-care.

Service industries, such as the medical community, are notoriously reactive in nature.   And in a bygone era, when there was nothing much we could do about our health proactively, it was seen as out of our hands – thus we did almost nothing proactively about it.

This is no longer the case. As technology continues to miniaturize, outsource and commoditize diagnosis, we are seeing new capabilities and thus the beginning of a new trend.  Consumers are increasingly able to get their hands on gadgets and tests which are often beyond what is routinely looked at during a Dr’s visit.  This is shifting the power structure of the Dr/patient relationship (somewhat begrudgingly with the tacit support of the FDA, as world famous cardiologist Dr. Eric Topal states in his book, The Patient Will See You Now).

This is a global trend which is gradually but definitively shifting primary diagnosis and care out of doctors offices and hospitals. Perhaps calling it a trend at this stage may even be presumptuous. Perhaps it’s a trickle, but like any stream, an ever present flow will gradually wear away at what’s underneath and change the landscape forever.

Massive change in any industry is rarely driven from one factor alone. Rather, multiple conditions combine to make for the perfect storm. At a certain point, the tipping point is reached and the majority of people just don’t do it the old way anymore.

In healthcare today that storm is a combination of runaway costs, the risks of nasty superbugs, overarching bureaucracy and new capability.  Doctors will either change to proactive suppliers of health care or gradually become relegated to last mile suppliers for those in need of surgery.

Let’s look at the change and the consumer’s shifting mindset …

We used to take our Doctor’s advice (and prescriptions) without question.

Today, we are on the cusp of a world where an ounce of medical proactivity can literally save your life.

Tattoos and home devices can monitor your vital signs, contact lenses can measure glucose levels, cancer cells can be destroyed through sound waves and embeddable devices will soon be able to measure our blood quality and be reported back to our phone via Bluetooth.  And let’s not forget how a DNA test can now definitively state whether a highly toxic medicine you’ve just been prescribed has a significantly higher chance of either killing or curing you – before you even take the drug.

Yet today,  if you twist your ankle you’re still in for a full day’s wait in the ER, countless forms and (if you live in the U.S.) a fight with your insurance company to pick up their share of the $10,000 tab.

So as you might imagine, other options are emerging. Today (again in the U.S.) you can go to a CVS pharmacy clinic, pay your $100 and you’ll be hobbling out the door with a bandage, possible crutches, and a prescription in under an hour.

DNA pioneer Craig Venter and Walgreen’s are both about to rollout DNA testing services which will significantly cut down adverse drug interactions amongst a whole host of other benefits.

Here in Canada, pharmacists are also getting increasingly involved.  Today they writing and filling prescriptions for many common ailments that would have previously only been handled by a physician (and the Dr’s are reportedly not overly keen on the infringement of their traditional territory).

About 10 years ago, Ray Kurzweil (who is now Google’s Director of Engineering) wrote The Singularity.  In it, he postulated that if someone could stay alive for the next 20 years, it would be possible to live forever.  Now, without going into debate about whether or not that is a good idea, let’s just assume he’s right.

Assuming so, ask yourself, what can you do today to ensure that you’re around long enough (and in reasonable enough shape) that you’ll be able to benefit from the massive change in medicine that will be upon us over the next 2 decades.

Today’s wise consumers are those that realize their health really is in their own hands.   So why not do what has always worked in the past and start measuring it? Remember the old banker’s maxim “What gets measured, gets managed.”

Something as simple as Runkeeper will automatically chart your activity on any iOS or Android phone for free.  Because habits are identity based, watching your activity charted every so often makes you feel like the type of person who is healthy – and thus you do healthier things.

If you’re interested, Bioniq covers the full range of the newest consumer health gadgets: smart scales, glucose monitors, neurofeedback devices, and diagnostics. If you’re really interested, there is a fabulous paper out on the subject by venture capitalist Vihnod Khosla available here.

E.O. & E.

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