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The Future Will Amaze Us. Is it Ours, Though? 

01-16-2019 10:40 AM

2019 writing contest entry #13

If you were to ask medical trainees which occupation was the face of Camel cigarette ads 70 years ago, how many would be able to answer that it was physicians? Flooded at the fingertips with news about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data, one might have a better shot at envisioning the medical landscape 100 years from now. From a shadowy past of lack of information, medicine now lives in a world overwhelmed with data. This current phase of healthcare innovation is indeed demonizing and has to survive many battles. To name a few: proper needs identification, acceptance of collaborative and convergence science, revolutionized data organization and integration, mitigation of data governance and intellectual property disputes, necessary advancements in instrumentation and devices, and responsible incorporation of AI and machine learning into the research and development arms of pharmaceuticals and clinical trials.

The advances ushered in by technologically advanced fields, such as diagnostic and interventional radiology, are providing the platform upon which the development, adaptation, and deployment of future care will be based. As the pace of innovation continues trending upward, we will soon experience exponential growth and amazement. Within the next few decades, convergent science will be the norm, we will readily deliver personalized medicine, dilemmas pertaining to data rights and infrastructure licensing will steadily resolve, and clinical trials will be ever more powerful despite becoming smaller and cheaper. Through effective data integration, the scientific community will promptly and uniformly adopt evidence-based decision making and policy standards. Healthcare networks will continue to expand and absorb smaller and private systems, spread their intellectual resources and standards of care, and improve their buying power and collaboration with industry to benefit more disparate communities. An ever brighter workforce will occupy more corners of less inhabited lands and help make negative social determinants of healthcare another ghost of the past.

When we hit the century mark and remarkably powerful machines and AI have safely and dramatically increased the throughput of hospital imaging, robots are fully capable of performing delicate, minimally invasive procedures, and personalized medicine cures previously devastating genetic illness or allows transplant recipients to live a normal lifespan, how will the definition and role of the physician change? The optimistic stance is that we will be major stakeholders in the process with unique ability and privilege to oversee and incorporate ourselves into the change. How will that look? Will supercomputers and biosensors become capable of integrating our consciousness into the revolutionary technology and allow us to troubleshoot procedures while we monitor from the control room? Will the future obviate our desire and proficiency toward clinical care as new devices remotely monitor and manage patients in the comfort of their homes? One thing is for sure, by advocating that biodesign and innovation become a part of training, we will help ensure our pivotal presence and influence in the evolutionary process. That is our due diligence.


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