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Three things I learned about the future of healthcare technology

Advances in technology move at lightning speed, and it’s hard not to wonder what the future holds, especially when it comes to healthcare IT. In my over-imaginative mind I envision hover-gurneys and robots wandering the hospital halls. But coming back to reality, what will the future of healthcare actually look like? I got my answer when I stumbled across a blog post from the Wall Street Journal, in which experts talked about what healthcare could become in the future. Here are the three most interesting (and most terrifying) tidbits:

1. DNA hacking in healthcare

So you know how everyone is terrified of having their hospital systems hacked and medical records stolen by attackers? Well John Sotos, M.D., — a cardiologist, flight surgeon, and principal at Expertscape, a medical-expertise search company — envisions a future of hacking in healthcare that makes events like the recent UCLA Health breach seem like the least of our worries. He envisions DNA hackers who, instead of sneaking viruses into computers or entering a private network to steal valuable information, will send biological viruses into your body.

“They’ll do this by designing DNA sequences that code for new, never-before-seen, living viruses that spread from person to person as easily as measles, and that kill (or sicken) as inevitably as rabies,” Sotos wrote. “Truly monstrous hackers will ensure your doctor cannot help you fight the virus, by engineering it so that off-the-shelf medicines and vaccines are ineffective.”

Widespread panic could result because, Sotos explains, once the virus is detected, the medical community will have only weeks to develop, test, produce and distribute new vaccines and medicines “before the exponential spread of the virus collapses social order world-wide,” he wrote.

Data breaches don’t seem so bad anymore.

2. Customized healthcare through big data

When it comes to big data in healthcare, Drew Harris, DPM, MPH, director of health policy at Thomas Jefferson University’s School of Population Health in Philadelphia, thinks that “new data analytic systems that make IBM’s Watson look like a kindergartner will be created to turn the noise of millions of individual and community-level data points into actionable signals.” Machines will rank diagnoses and treatment options, and then doctors will review and decide which path to take, he added.

This approach will drastically change the role of the physician from one who diagnoses problems to a person who guides patients through their medical care.

One worrisome con about big data at this level is the potential loss of all healthcare privacy.

Because of this concern, new policies governing the use of healthcare data will have to be established, Harris wrote.

3. Doctor/patient interaction remains constant

With so many changes happening when it comes to technology in healthcare, there’s comfort in knowing that some experts believe certain things will remain the same.

Gurpreet Dhaliwal, M.D. — professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center — thinks the dialog between doctor and patient will not change 20 years from now.

“The conversation may be enhanced or burdened by technology, but the setup will be the same: One person who is concerned about their health, one person who is committed to helping that person and ample uncertainty,” Dhaliwal wrote.