Tomorrow - A Future Now Magazine

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Patients of the Future

How technology, service, design, and empathy will make you happier and healthier.

Kavita Patel, @kavitapmd, is a doctor who wants to make every doctor a patient for a day. 
James Oliver Senior, @jamessenior, is a designer at Mayo Clinic.
Peter Steineck makes things in Minnesota.


A Unified Health Team Just for You

An interdisciplinary team of health care professionals—a doctor, social worker, mental health counselor, nutritionist, and physical therapist—will help you throughout your life, on your terms, in your location. Instead of today’s average of only 28 minutes with one doctor each year, you will spend hours with the members of your team. The key innovation will be a dedicated care administrator who coordinates your care, managing appointments and optimizing electronic health records. Your administrator will have reviewed your medical history with team members and specialists before you come into the office—no patient of the future should have to manage her own forms or chase down lab results. Your medical history, symptoms, diagnosis and health goals will be maintained in a secure yet easy-to-access database, so you won’t have to recite your medical history each time you meet a new caregiver. Your care administrator will help you research treatment options, drug side effects, and advice from patients with similar health conditions.

Individualized Medicine for Your Genetic Makeup

Patients who have their genes sequenced can receive treatments and therapies tailored to their DNA. From a saliva swab, your care team will map your unique genetic composition to predict and prevent disease even before you experience symptoms. At your option, you’ll learn the conditions for which you’re at risk while receiving treatments designed to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects. Individualized medicine will allow you to identify and change your unique microbiome—the mix of bacteria that live symbiotically inside you—with probiotics. Health care will no longer be a mass-market business.

A Hospital Designed for You

A hospital stay today can feel nearly inhumane: waiting on a cold metal gurney, wearing a “barely there” patient gown, being poked and prodded around the clock by medical specialists. Tomorrow, hospitals will be organized around patient needs. You’ll be able to wear comfortable clothes, stay in a room with furniture and lighting customized to your needs, and set appointments on your schedule. Technicians will take samples in your room and then send them blitzing around the hospital via pneumatic tubes, while barcodes will allow for quick results and easy electronic tracking. Because mental health affects physical health, you’ll have time during the day for relaxation, exercise, and yoga, as well as good nutrition—no more complaints about bad hospital food.

Health Technology You Wear Every Day

An increasing number of people already use wearable devices to track their lives and their health. In the future, you’ll use home monitors and diagnostic tools embedded in your clothes and accessories to connect your body to your health team. Your wired glasses will track your heartbeat and respiration, and prescription meds will be transmitted to your skin from your watchband. Patients with diabetes will wear insulin pumps in their scarves. Apps will store data and provide reports, allowing you to discuss your health in real time with specialists and other patients to make informed decisions about trends, treatments and self-care. Those conversations will be tracked in your health record for your care team to read before your next visit. “Smart bottle” design for prescription drugs will use a computer chip to remind you when to take your pills and how many to take, eliminating the human error that leads to half of all medicine dispensed today being taken incorrectly.

Dignity and Compassion at the End

Today, one in five Americans spend their last days in an intensive care unit, surrounded by noise, tubes, and bright lights. In the future, your care team will help you find the best life all the way until the end. You’ll discuss your end-of-life plans—including where you want to spend your final days and your cultural and religious considerations—while you’re still in good health. A compassionate care team will ensure you’re treated with dignity and in accordance with your wishes if your mental health declines. We may not be able to prevent death, but we can make it less stressful and painful for patients and their families.