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Disruption, Not Destruction Will Save Medicine

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, June 12, 2012

To his credit, at one point Topol notes the risk that a new generation of digital hypochondriacs may be in the offing. I share his disgust that organizations such as the American Medical Association have opposed giving patients their full medical records, for fear of misinterpretation.

But it's also true that the vast amounts of personal medical information being liberated by electronic medical records, sensors, and remote monitoring, could unleash a new wave of medical quackery like nothing we've ever seen. A host of already-existing Web sites are leading that unfortunate vanguard.

The most problematic portion of the book may be where Topol triumphantly predicts the creatively destructive effect that social networking will have on medicine. First of all, he pays inadequate attention to the very real privacy risks that today's commercial social networks represent. A company such as Facebook is not getting rich by protecting the personal information of its members to the greatest extent possible.

Although Facebook's privacy controls are more sophisticated that any of its rivals, its arbitrary changes to its privacy policies and continued friction with governments and privacy groups is an indicator that storing one's health record in a social network is a courageous act, unless the patient is the equivalent of a digital exhibitionist.

To return to my key point, it is all well and good to say that "it will not be long until digitizing a person unlocks the root cause for what is wrong." But such short-term expectations are unrealistic.

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1 comments on "Disruption, Not Destruction Will Save Medicine"


civisisus (6/12/2012 at 3:26 PM)
"The fact that productivity gains remained largely flat through a period of vast investment in technology improvements meant that predicting such gains solely on the basis of Moore's Law, and the proliferation of sensors everywhere, is a risky business." no major objections with the thrust of your essay, Scott, but the above-quoted bit stuck out awkwardly. This thing called the internet suggests that declaring productivity gains "largely flat" is risky business, too, unless you're going to define what "largely flat" means to you: Historical productivity growth (US BLS) http://www.bls.gov/lpc/prodybar.htm