Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Future of Health Care?

I recently watched a three part series, 2057, that was on the Discovery Channel. The series makes an educated projection on what life will most likely be like for in 50 years. The predictions are based on current technological developments that for the most part need only to be refined and expanded slightly. Part one of the series titled The Body focuses on potential medical developments in the near future.

Part one of the series predicts numerous advances that will benefit our lives and help us to live longer. Response times will be faster because of car sized VTOL or vertical take off and landing vehicles which are able to fly to and from the hospital in order to avoid traffic congestion. Responding emergency personnel will know all of your vitals, injuries, and medical history immediately. They will even be able to put you into temporarily suspended animation until and while they work on you and hospitals will be able to print you a new organ if necessary.

These advances sound incredible unfortunately, it comes at a price. In order to have all of your vital information immediately, everything you own from your refrigerator to your toilet will be connected to a computer system which not only the heath care system but also your medical insurance company will have access to. Urine and stool samples can be tested and the results supplied to your insurance company with each trip to the bathroom. They will know what is in your cupboards and refrigerator. So they will know what you have been eating and drinking, with particular interest in your not so healthy choices. There will be smart shirts and clothing that can supply private data including your location, heart rate, and breathing.

In this scenario privacy will be a thing of the past and we will all live in fear of our insurance companies. I believe that the best way to avoid this unfortunate consequence of advancement would be to enact some form of legal privacy protection limiting the access of insurance companies to our personal information and the creation of a universal heath care system. After all what would be the point of creating technologies to save countless lives when control of these technologies belongs to insurance companies. Do we all want to be slaves of the insurance companies?


Javier Marti said...

Hi ladies.
I am Javier, the founder of Trendirama.com, a community of online amateur writers. We write about the future of everything, and we are right now overpopulated by men (8 male authors and just one female!)
I would like to invite you, and anyone interested in the idea, to write an article on our website, perhaps based on what you mentioned here. Maybe you can write "The future of bioethics?"? It is up to you, you choose the subject.
You would get a link back when you link to your own article, if you wish.
You can even re-use some of what you've written here, in the last part of the article, "your view and comments". That would save you time and still be interesting for readers.
Don’t underestimate this opportunity!
Look forward to hearing from you and that you help us to tip the scales at least a little bit towards women authors! :)

Best regards
Javier Marti

Anonymous said...

Without having seen the program (which sounds interesting), the first thing that strikes me is that they assume, in 50 years, we'll still be rationing healthcare through a commercial for-profit insurance market. I'm optimistic enough to think the inevitable end to that system will come far sooner than 50 years into the future (and crazy enough to think it could come under our next President).

Among the many advantages of a universal care system is that it almost certainly would do away with "risk-rating" patient pools, instead treating the entire country as a single group for purposes of predicting and funding average care needs. This both eliminates the need for discriminatory health categories, and fosters an egalitarian sense that "we're all in this together" at least as far as health status goes. That is not to say there will not be constant pressure to single out individuals and penalize them for their health status or lifestyle, but at least that's not usually an inherent part of a national healthcare system, and thus is easier to guard against.

However, the privacy concerns are important for other reasons, and I agree that the intrusiveness that accompanies the technologies that allow for exhaustively detailed healthcare is a significant side effect. In addition to guarding against punitive authoritarian snooping, we have to come to some kind of balance between our own values of healthcare information privacy and comprehensive care - a problem that already plagues us, never mind 50 years from now.

Anonymous said...

The privacy concern will be ongoing. I foresee more people returning to "simply living by livng simply" and opting to pay in cash in exchange for no identifying info. on medical records or in off the record paper medical records. In other words, concierge service to keep info under the table.
The DNA/biometric issue is difficult to manage. Since we all leave trails, my intuition tells me there will be R&D on products to mask DNA/biometrics or to otherwise render them unusable to scanners/readers/diagnostics.
Going "off the grid" will indeed be a growth market.