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BW Businessworld

High-tech Healing

Dramatic advances in technologies and a renewed social mindset will make way for improved healthcare ecosystem

Photo Credit : Bivash Banerjee

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The future is always fascinating, and even a conservative view of the year 2035 is a staggering vision. Healthcare in 2035 will be deeply intuitive and intelligent. Its remarkable predictive powers will be driven by global collaboration that the world is only dreaming of today. A network of big data, real time monitoring and genome benchmarking will lead to analytic models, which can foresee an ailment or a condition before it strikes. Digital medicine is already moving beyond a nascent stage. There are already FDA approved ingestible sensors that pass on invaluable information and patterns to physicians on the patient’s metabolism, vital parameters, habits and so on. This development has game-changing implications for measuring and augmenting the efficacy of treatment, drug prescription and usage.

In delivering healthcare, the hospital has been the hub for several centuries, but I foresee that in 2035, only the sickest patients will receive inpatient care. Most procedures will move to the outpatient model and the health staff will include robots and patient networks especially in chronic disease management.

In battling cancer, genome reprogramming would have finally given us the much needed dramatic advances in technologies like cell regeneration, and 3D printing of organs will herald a future where treatment reaches a new frontier. The remarkable ‘Organ-on-a-Chip’ programme is working on a multi-channel 3D microfluidic cell culture chip that simulates the activities, mechanics, and physiological response of entire organs and hence futuristic organ systems will certainly have the capability to mimic the structure and functions of a living human organ.

By 2035, the desire to defy ageing will no longer be vanity; it will be a medical reality. Research is already underway to both slow down and reverse the ageing process. Human fetal cells divide between 40-60 times before they wear out or turn senescent (biological ageing). Molecule-based chemicals are under development to isolate and fight these senescent cells. As this process gains maturity, it might not just be possible to age gracefully, but actually age with fun.

The entire ecosystem of healthcare would become more inclusive. To a large extent, this will be driven by extreme disruption in the healthcare delivery and the continuum of care. The patient will define the point of care and the social determinants of good health would be included in the ambit of ensuring wellbeing. The new ecosystem will be built on the pillars of intelligent technologies for improved health provision. Furthermore, transformative recasting of engagement and interaction between doctors and patients would change the paradigm of accessibility and affordability. Healthcare in 2035 will not just be defined by brilliance and advancement in isolated silos, but the most remarkable aspect of it will be that the change would be holistic and comprehensive. Population Health would become an integral barometer of social success and also shape the economic momentum of the nation.

Sweeping changes in our habitat will have a profound impact on healthcare delivery. By 2035, the migration to smart cities would be complete. Technologies that ensure quality controlled air, water and sanitation would be ubiquitous; this would have a catalysing effect on the population health index. Moreover, social mindset will be a defining facet of healthcare in future. Health will transition from being a responsibility to a duty; it would become a civic imperative to stay healthy and champion good health. This change in attitude could well be one of the significant developments in the society of tomorrow.

In addition, fiscal disruptions, participative insurance models and transformative regulatory reforms would have made inability to access high quality healthcare on account of lack of financial resources, a topic of healthcare history.

Despite all the progress in the present day, it is well possible that stakeholders of healthcare in 2035 will look back at our best efforts of 2016 with of an incredulous bemusement. I hope this is the case; for that would mean we have reached the true potential of the movement that is underway now. A fantastic future is always rooted in the thoughts and deeds of today.

Undoubtedly, the pace of disruption has accelerated in this millennium, but it is not a product of it. The need though is to be aware that our cumulative progress lies in persistent innovation or rather in the economics of persistence of an innovative behaviour as this alone will encourage us to innovate and disrupt the norm time and again.

Today, technology has given us an incredible opportunity to reimagine healthcare of the future; we must seize it by demonstrating unbridled curiosity, unwavering focus and selfless collaboration.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Preetha Reddy

The author is vice-chairperson, Apollo Hospitals

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