How the crowd, not medical professionals, will lead the health-tech revolution
Technology has improved our ability to control many aspects of our lives — although, it’s done so more rapidly in some areas than others. So we can stream music and films where and when we choose and do our banking at three in the morning if we wish. Yet, when it comes to health care, medical professionals remain firmly in charge, requiring us to wait for weeks, often quite passively, for appointments, results, and treatment options. Let’s not even contemplate the need for a second opinion. Throughout this process, the vast majority of us still don’t have immediate access to our own data that could be critical to our decision making and well-being. Recent studies show that we are keen for new practices. Almost a third of the population seeks health advice online, and, according to a WedMD survey, 40% of patients wanted to use technology to deal with health issues without visiting a physician’s office, while just 17 percent of physicians were in favor. Clearly, the days of us being passive consumers of care are over. We want to be more involved in managing our own health journeys, and we want the data to validate our medical and health choices as well as let us track our own state of health. Although the medical profession isn’t hearing the crowd’s roar, we’re seeing a number of health-tech solutions begin to emerge — not from doctors’ offices or physician-run startups, but from groups of citizens finding ways to help themselves and each other. Patients Like Me is an early example, now joined by others like CrowdMed and my own company, Big White Wall. All of these crowd-powered efforts seem to have some core principles in common. They include:
The individual serves as the locus of control
The decisions are data driven
They are available 24/7 from anywhere
They are consumer focused
In the next few years (possibly even months), technology will inevitably take us further — to a place where we can pull in data not just from our peers and other external sources but also from body sensors. Yes, folks, it is time to make friends with what lies under your skin because it is going to help you stay well. Such sensors will put us further in control of our own health by tracking and responding to our moods, recording our movement and diet, and alerting our friends at the times we need support. Beyond that, we are entering a world where even our homes may know how we feel both mentally and physically. That data could trigger changes in our ambiance and what our fridges offers us for breakfast. But, in order for the benefits of this technology to be fully realized in health care (where, to be honest, it is needed the most), the crowd must take control and demand that health care integrate human sized technology to its fullest. Ultimately, if the individual and/or crowd takes the control over health, we will be looking at a whole better future for all. SO, CROWD, ROAR ON!