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Futurology and Medicine

Foxbase AlphaImage by -RobW- via FlickrFuturology is the art of postulating possible futures. Here's a tour of some possible futures of medical care.

Medinnovationblog, written by Dr. Richard Reece, imagines a detailed vision of what medicine might be like in 2020. He discusses a burst health care bubble, global competition, consumer driven care, and the future of EMRs.
Well, it 2020. I’m happy to report the U.S. health system has finally developed a sustainable health system. It’s been a long haul, and it hasn’t been easy.

It’s the story of a 12 year struggle with realities – coping with a severe economic contraction; making tough political compromises between liberals and conservatives; decentralizing of health institutions, including virtual monitoring and managing of the chronically ill and dying at home; competing globally for the health care dollar; responding to consumer demands for affordability, convenience, choice, and access; optimizing clinical benefits for money spent; and most importantly, developing sustainable business models in which outcomes matched money expended.

The resulting U.S. system hasn’t satisfied the two political parties. Democrats, particularly its liberal wing, are disappointed a single-payer approach hasn’t evolved. Republicans are unhappy a consumer dominated system hasn’t caught fire. “Progressive capitalism,” the U.S. version of socialism, has replaced unfettered capitalism.
MedGadget, a fantastic source of information on new, emerging, and potential technologies, discusses the auctioning of medical care. In this case, radiology services:
To start the bidding process, clients post their requests and all radiologists pre-qualified by them receive an email invitation to bid. The lowest bidder wins the contract, downloads the cases and uploads the final radiology reports. There are no possible delays in diagnosis because the bidding process is settled months in advance “The system has advantages for all parties,” said Dr. Roubein. “Hospitals and imaging centers benefit from market competition that gives them the best price for radiology interpretation services at any given time."
The Health Care Blog discusses the new medical wikis, Google's Knol and MedPedia, as well as other emerging wikis that you've never heard of.

What makes these efforts particularly interesting is that, through a collaborative Web-based process, they attempt to distill and document the current best knowledge about any topic. In health care, the goal is easily accessible state-of-the-science information, the equivalent of ongoing medical/scientific review articles that detail what we know and don’t know about life and care processes.

MedPedia and Knol are merely two in a line of health care wikis. The Joint Commission established WikiHealthCare, an interactive forum for health care professionals. Clinfowiki is devoted to clinical informatics. And of course this blog’s readers will be familiar with the Health 2.0 wiki, which has assembled information about that burgeoning sector.

And finally, here's a discussion of the future of medicine as imagined in science fiction.
The best known series about the ordinary working life of a doctor of the future are the Sector General novels of James White, which follow Dr. Conway and his human and alien colleagues of the multi-species, multi-environment space station/hospital Sector General. Most recent in the series are The Galactic Gourmet, in which the galaxy's greatest chef undertakes the galaxy's greatest gastronomic challenge - to make hospital food palatable - and sets about it with such utter singlemindedness as to cause havoc, Final Diagnosis, in which a xenophobic patient arrives suffering from a mysterious illness, and Mind Changer. In contrast to the 'tertiary care centre' that is Sector General, Calhoun in The Med Series (Murray Leinster) is the public health inspector, travelling from colony to colony, alone but for Murgatroyd, an ape-like creatures who acts as a living toxicology and immunology laboratory. Alan E. Nourse's Star Surgeon portrays life for the interns of the future, as new graduate Dal Timgar and his two colleagues set out aboard the General Practice Patrol Ship Lancet. Surgeon Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil, herself the product of illegal genetic engineering, leaves a sheltered life on isolationist Earth for an understaffed clinic on a multispecies colony and finds friendship, love, strange physiologies and plague, in S.L. Viehl's Stardoc. In the sequels, Cherijo's life goes from bad to worse as she is hunted by her progenitor, enslaved by the Hss'kt, enthralled by the enigmatic telepath, Duncan Reever, and re-captured by her progenitor/creator.

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.