Documentary series explores future of health science & technology
Fans of sci-fi from Star Trek to modern Hollywood blockbusters like Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’, will be familiar with depictions of advanced technologies which can cure cancer at the touch of a button. However the future may not be as far away as we think. Last night HealthGauge.com joined professionals from the health industries for a screening of a new documentary series from marketing media publisher The Drum. Hosted at the London headquarters of production partner Sapient, ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ is a series of programmes that explore how technology is set to disrupt all aspects of our everyday lives.
The short programme hosted by The Drum’s head of TV, Dave Birss, examines everything from wearable fitness tech, health data and health services to even more ambitious technologies of synthetic biology.
Addressing the theme of disruption the programme begins by acknowledging that modern technological innovation favours that which can be digitised. Whilst this has been an easy process in music, media and entertainment, in the field of health the key to unlock the potential in digital technologies has until now been somewhat elusive. However current generation advancements are enabling what looks certain to be an unprecedented shift in our relationship with health care.
The most obvious opportunity is in solving the issue of inefficiency in public health services where medical records, currently handled via antiquated systems, could and are now being digitised, making them openly available to patients, doctors and even pharmacies. Health tracking technology can also be employed to enhanced interaction between patient and doctor, providing a wealth of data that could help to diagnose conditions earlier and more accurately.
Health is very data intensive and it is the value of this data that raises some of the most crucial questions. Values both in terms of how we interpret this data and put it to use as well as a potential financial value terms as data could potentially be used for commercial gain. At the screening we heard from a representative of PruHealth who recently launched Vitality which enables customers to get a discount on health insurance by sharing their health data. Health insurance providers are also making use of platforms such as Microsoft’s HealthVault platform which can even be connected to accounts when using gym equipment.
A further consideration is the cost of keeping people alive for longer. The programme presented a number of technologies such as the Da Vinci machine which is regularly used in prostate and hysterectomy operations which costs just under $2 million, 3D printers used to replace bone fragments and potentially even print tissue as well as customised ‘concierge healthcare’. Health care on this level does indeed seem expensive, but some would argue that keeping people healthy costs significantly less than attempting to treat illness via current fatalist geriatric medicine. Life extension theorist Aubrey de Grey estimates that treating the elderly costs the US government $200 billion a year, not to mention that they are also physically unable to work and contribute to the economy. Add to that conditions like obesity adding $190 billion to the healthcare bill in America alone and the advantages of technological disruption in health care becomes more and more attractive. The cost for feeding this growing and longer living population is another mater however.
The Day After Tomorrow series is available to view now at The Drum.