The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) 2014 annual meeting kicked off with a bang in Chicago, with Dr. Eric Topol leading the opening plenary session with a talk on the effects of technology on healthcare.
It's interesting to note that DRG highlighted many of the same topics in our 2014 Year in Preview namely mobile apps empowering patients, remote patient monitoring and telehealth improving disease management, big data informing healthcare, and the value of personalized medicine.
To focus on the major topic of the session, Dr. Topol noted that healthcare moving forward will be consumer-driven. Armed with healthcare mobile apps and vital sign sensors embedded in their phones, the consumer will increasingly play a major role in diagnosing disease. This will move healthcare away from a paternalistic model where doctors are unquestioned, to patients themselves using self-generated data to make informed healthcare choices.
An example recounted during the talk was about a patient that had a mobile ECG sensor. One day, Dr. Topol received an email, stating more or less, Help, I'm in atrial fibrillation, what do I do! Now think about that for a second. As Dr. Topol stated, in the past, a patient experiencing signs of an arrhythmia would need to book an appointment, drive physically to the doctor's location, and discuss symptoms that could have happened hours to days in the past. Now, a consumer can actually say, I'm in A-fib, and send the ECG directly to the physician. Plus, by using telehealth services, patients can also instantly video conference with a physician. Certainly, it's an amazing time we live in.
So, the big question is, where does this leave the doctors themselves. Physicians will be charged with the treatment of disease itself and for acting as partners to make informed diagnostic decisions. The concept of self-diagnosing patients certainly has its drawbacks, and the physician will act as a guide to ensure that the proper conclusion is drawn. An example of this would be a patient that is observing high blood glucose levels who then demands potentially unnecessary high-cost lab tests for diabetes.
Really, the major paradigm shift is that now the patients themselves will have a prominent seat at the table during these discussions. They'll need guidance and expert opinion certainly, but they'll at least have a voice.