Future Health - 8/17/18

Delivering care in the new virtual world…

Keeping Up Or, Not – The explosion in medical knowledge is daunting.  Last year, more than 2.5 million clinical studies were published, and the rate of increase is accelerating.  For example, in 1950, it took 50 years for medical knowledge to double.  By 1980, that had reached just 7 years. In 2020, the projection for the doubling of knowledge in medicine is 2.5 months.  Imagine that!!  I think it is amazing how much has changed since I graduated (a ways back :-)  ) but those changes pale in comparison to what the future physicians will be managing.  It’s all happening because of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the like.  AND, it’s one of the reasons that we need to reconsider the medical school curriculum to integrate the use of information technologies as a core component of medical school training.  I don’t believe doctors will be replaced anytime soon – unless they don’t learn how to use these new and evolving tools which provided “clinically augmented intelligence.”  Those skills are as important – if not more important – than the biochemistry, physiology and anatomy of yore. 

GAFABAT – Have Your Heard About It? – There’s a new term that’s beginning to float around the ethernet = “GAFABAT”.  If you have not heard about it, you should know about it because GAFABAT is working to change your life in both direct and indirect ways – at home, in the office while working, while sleeping and even while simply contemplating.  So, what is it?  It is short for “Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent or, GAFABAT.  This small group of seven companies is all about artificial intelligence and changing the way work, life, living is done.  These companies have attracted the very best talent in the world to help them make changes across the board in our lives.  Their data sets are massive – so massive that you are most likely not even able to comprehend their increasingly ability to not only understand any number of work-related activities but, also to understand you.  While I am a big believer in artificial intelligence and machine learning, I’m also increasingly of the opinion that we need to keep a watchful eye on the developments of this field.  For example, in China there are all sorts of reports on the use of government surveillance to manage the populace that are powered by computer vision and face recognition technologies. In that nation, you can be followed anywhere.  But, it’s not just China.  The same applies to London and increasingly in many urban areas throughout the world.  And, it’s not just our faces.  It’s what we buy, what sites we visit on the Internet, what programs and songs we download from Apple, what items we buy at the grocery store.  In essence, what we do every minute of every day in our life.  While there is incredible good that will no doubt come of this knowledge there is also the potential for “not so good”.  We should consider those issues.  We should debate them.  We should deal with them rather than brushing them aside.  I offer these thoughts after two cups of coffee on a Saturday morning.  Imagine what my thoughts will be by this afternoon…

The Reality Of Our Reality – There is an evolving technology that is likely to change health care in some very substantial ways.  It’s been primarily a focus of the gaming industry but all of that is about to change.  Specifically, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are coming of age.  These two technologies are increasingly being used in various industrial sectors and only now coming to health care.  While it’s clear that the technology has a bit of further development and is only at the very formative stages of development, it’s also clear that it could very easily alter our whole notion of how, where, who and when care is delivered.  Let’s consider just two examples: 

  • Training – The process for educating health professions students and for orienting our staff to the workflow of our organizations hasn’t changed much until recently. We’re clearly at the formative stages of a disruption in how training will occur through the use of VR/AR technologies. Some non-health care examples include Walmart’s introduction of Strivr – a VR tool that helped to prepare employees for its Black Friday sales in 2017. It created an alternative, lifelike environment that immersed the new sales associates in experiences with long queues and crowds in order to prepare them for all sorts of happenings that occur on Black Friday at Walmart stores throughout the nation.  Or, consider another VR training tool, Oculus VirtualSpeech which helps users hone their public speaking skills in a simulated environment. Distractions and other occurrences that are part of engaging with people are built into the Oculus experience.  Imagine how these two tools could be used in health care to help workers learn how to manage busy emergency rooms and to engage with patients who are experiencing health problems in the acute care setting.  In particular, the VR/AR tools will enable healthcare professionals to practice in a risk free environment.  Think it’s not possible?  Think again.  Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) is already using Oculus to train staff for pediatric trauma cases.  And, there are more opportunities on the horizon. Beyond these ideas, we are now seeing VR/AR used for training surgeons in the OR, technicians for all types of procedures, and administrative/clinical personnel for enhancing their interactions with patients. 
  • Building Care Delivery Facilities – The construction of health care facilities continues to be one of the most expensive efforts in the building business. The use of VR/AR offers a host of benefits for reducing costs, creating efficiencies, avoiding construction mistakes and enhancing the end-user experiences once the facility is opened.  The technology actually lets the future patient and clinician walk through the environment so that the architects can finalize their designs before construction starts.  It provides the bridge between the imagination of the architect and the reality of end users who will live in these facilities. 

It’s a new day in health care.  Keep your eye on the VR/AR world.  It’s going to change how we prepare everyone for doing everything in health care.  The imaginary worlds are becoming reality and, if you can imagine it, you can create it and, prepare for it!


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