Digital Health Revolution Long Awaited, Much Misunderstood

Jim Molpus, for HealthLeaders Media , January 17, 2012

The baseline of innovation in healthcare also has to change, Topol says. Much—if not most—healthcare technology innovation adds to the overall cost. What is needed is "frugal innovation" that bends the cost curve, he says. One promising application is an inexpensive wireless sleep monitor which can provide data on sleep patterns, at a cost of under $100 against a $3,000 overnight stay in a hospital sleep center.

"Now we are talking about the big challenge. Here you have all these great technologies but they are not going to sit well if they have any, any increase in cost," Topol says.

The challenges are immense, especially on the data side. "Each genome you sequence has six billion letters and you have to sequence it 40 times and then you have to interpret it properly," he says. But the day is not far off when you can carry your genomic data on a smart phone, which will have transformative implications for everything from checking drug interactions to predicting disease patterns, he says.

If enough people push for it, and the industry responds, this digital revolution has the capacity to "open windows we have never been able to see through before," Topol says.

"It's getting all this panoramic view of the patient: their biology, their physiology, their anatomy, this high-definition person, which really is transformative."  Even revolutionary.

Jim Molpus is Leadership Programs Director of HealthLeaders Media.
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