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Why Healthcare Is Crazy Now, But Might Not Be in a Decade

Dramatic change is coming to healthcare—eventually. 

The current state of medicine is insane, according to the entrepreneur Bay McLaughlin. “A doctor sees you for all of 10 minutes. They ask a couple of questions, and then they attempt the impossible: diagnose your unthinkably complex body after 10 minutes of getting some rudimentary readings,” he says.

He has a point. The most common metrics that a nurse collects in a routine doctor visit—weight, blood pressure, and pulse—have been measurable since the early nineteenth century. And today, most of us know more about the state of our smartphone battery than we do about the state of our heart. 

“In the future, I think we will not legally be allowed to see a doctor without having a personal data set,” says McLaughlin, who is the co-founder of the Hong Kong–based IoT incubator Brinc.io. “I don’t think the insurance companies will touch us without that data.” Maybe a decade from now, we’ll go to the doctor armed with months or years of data, which could include everything from heart rate variability, genomics, and traditional metrics like weight and temperature. 

Silicon Valley billionaire and Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla also agrees that mainstream healthcare is, in many ways, more archaic than modern. People shouldn’t have to wait until they have a heart attack before they learn they have heart disease, for instance. “There is probably a good way to detect [heart disease] five to 10 years in advance,” Khosla said a year ago at Health 2.0’s WinterTech conference in San Francisco. 

One day, healthcare is bound to become truly data-driven, making extensive use of sophisticated electronic medical records and computer simulations of patients, predicted Richard Satava, MD, professor emeritus of surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle back in 2010. “The only question is how long it’s going to take the healthcare industry to wake up to the importance of this. I don’t want to seem like a megalomaniac, but this is on the magnitude of cell phones or the Internet.” 

In the end, healthcare IoT companies that take the long view are poised to dominate healthcare a decade from now, Bay says. “The ones that do not will be be sitting on the sidelines.”

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