What does Exponential Technology Mean for Medicine?

My podcast interview about Exponential Technology and Medicine recently came out! Hurrah! Listen to my the podcast/interview here and check out a written summary below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

My interview kicked off season three for Boldly! Boldly is a podcast featuring thought-provoking conversations with physician entrepreneurs on topics related to physician-led innovation. Boldly is produced by Joule, a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association.

I was interviewed by Nancy Crain, the Chief Social Innovation Officer at Joule. We talked about health care innovation and about what exponential technologies could mean for the future of medicine.

These are the questions that Nancy asked:

1) Tell me about your story — where does your interest in disruptive technology come from? (@ 1:30 in the podcast)
2) Can you elaborate on your vision for the future of health care? What is the time frame that we are speaking about? (@ 6:30 in the podcast)
3) Are there specific strategies that you may have that will help with the implementation of new technologies in our health care system? (@ 12:30 in the podcast)
4) What is the role of the empowered patient in changing health care as we move forward? (@ 17:45 in the podcast)
5) In the context of the development of Artificial Intelligence, digitization of health records and other technology, how is the human component of health care changing? (@ 21:30 in the podcast)
6) What are the barriers, and how do we get past them, to drive innovation in the Canadian health care system in Canada (@ 28:00 in the podcast).
7) Can you give us some examples of what the digital doctors toolbox will look like? (@ 31:00 in the podcast)
8) Do you have any advice or recommendations for medical students that are starting out? How can medical schools best prepare medical students for the future of health care? (@ 38:40 in the podcast)

A summary of my answers is below! Listen to the full answers/podcast here.

Nancy: To get our interview started, tell me about your story — where does your interest in disruptive technology come from? — (Question 1 @ 1:30 in the podcast)

Philip: My story… I am a UBC MDPhD student. When I attended the Singularity University Global Solution Program in Silicon Valley in 2016 I was inspired to undertake the bold challenge of having a positive impact on the health of a billion people by connecting medicine, biomedical engineering and entrepreneurship. I’ve worked towards that goal through my PhD research and my work on the Alzheimer’s XPrize.

Disruptive innovation is a term that was coined by Clayton Christensen in the 1990s (http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/). He writes that disruptive innovation “allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.” There are many examples of disruptive innovation in health care, and I believe that as health care professionals must engage with these new technologies so that they can adapt to this new world and so that they can fully leverage disruptive innovation to deliver better care to their patients. That is what I am trying to do.

Nancy: Can you elaborate on your vision for the future of health care? What is the time frame that we are speaking about? — (Question 2 @ 6:30 in the podcast)

Philip: My vision for the future of health care is one in which doctors are fulfilled in their work and have the time to focus on patients and whatever they know is important to do their job. And, less paperwork! The future patient will be much more empowered and health literate. Patients will be able to make more informed decision and have access to technology that can track and quantify their health.

In the next five or ten years, the way we practice medicine is going to change dramatically. In order to understand how so much change is going to happen so quickly, it is important to understand that change is coming at an exponential rate. This exponential rate of change is largely driven by Moore’s law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law).

Nancy: Are there specific strategies that you may have that will help with the implementation of new technologies in our health care system? (Question 3 @ 12:30 in the podcast)

Philip: In the Canadian context we have some unique challenges. For example, in some quarters the Canadian health care system has a reputation as the place that pilot studies go to die. Additionally, the Canadian health care system is not vertically integrated. For example, family doctors are independent contractors that work independently of hospitals.

One strategy to improve implementation is for physicians to engage with the development of new technology. Secondly, the space between health wellness and health care is starting to blur. As such, in some cases, patients are taking their own health care into their own hand. Embracing these consumer-driven technologies and integrating the data they generate into the health care system will be important. Our health care leaders will also need to scale our health care system capacity by using disruptive and exponential technology. It’s not just about paying for more operations and more beds in hospitals. For example, Seamless.MD has used an app-based patient education and monitoring software to enhance the patient experience, improve surgical outcomes and lower costs.

Nancy: What is the role of the empowered patient in changing health care as we move forward? (Question 4 @ 17:45 in the podcast)

Philip: Dr. Eric Topol’s book, The Patient Will See You Now, does an excellent job at answering that question. Patients have more information than ever before and are embracing the quantified-self movement and tracking their health care outcomes like never before. Physicians no longer have a monopoly access to information about health. Their role is evolving to become the trusted partner to the patient who will put all of the information the patient has in context and help to integrate the information the patient collects through their own research and health tracking.

Nancy: In the context of the development of Artificial Intelligence, digitization of health records and other technology, how is the human component of health care changing? (Question 5 @ 21:30 in the podcast)

Philip: The big tech companies in the USA have dramatically increased the amount they are investing in health care and there are over 100 AI and healthcare companies. To understand the impact of AI on the human aspect of health care, I really recommend the book, Prediction Machines. It is important to look at AI as another tool. Computers, another tool, made the cost of arithmetic effectively free, and AI will make the cost of prediction effectively free. Prediction in the context of health care includes diagnosing disease and predicting what the outcome of the patient with that disease will be. In light of all of these predictions, there will be a need for more doctors to provide the human judgement to help patients interpret the predictions.

Nancy: What are the barriers, and how do we get past them, to drive innovation in the Canadian health care system in Canada (Question 6 @ 28:00 in the podcast).

Philip: We need to embrace the empowered patient movement that is been enabled and catalyzed by exponential technology. Right now, the patient is the most under-used resource. That needs to change. We need bold leadership at the provincial and Canadian levels. At the provincial level, we need to make the process of procurement of new technology simpler and we need a national health care strategy.

We need to embrace that the future of health care will be more virtual and that remuneration of physicians and health care systems will be partly based on patient outcomes. We need to make the most of the data that we are generating right now.

Nancy: Can you give us some examples of what the digital doctor's toolbox will look like? (Question 7 @ 31:00 in the podcast)

Philip: We are entering an era where the ambient data that is generated by our smart phones, watches and the connected home give a more accurate snapshot of our health then a doctor can surmise through a conventional physical exam. Smartphones can now easily double as otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes. Ultrasound is becoming ubiquitous in health clinics and hospitals — ultrasound will be the stethoscope of the 21st century. Patients can use their smart watch or phone to take their EKG in their home.

Going beyond the dematerialization of diagnostic technology, we must also consider how AI is changing the actual diagnostic process. The FDA recently approved the first ever AI system for the autonomous detection of diabetic retinopathy by analyzing the picture of the back of a person’s eye. Arterys is designing AI approaches for analyzing radiology images — one example of where they hope to apply their AI algorithms is for autonomous interpretation of CT scans that are done for lung cancer screening.

Nancy: Do you have any advice or recommendations for medical students that are starting out? How can medical schools best prepare medical students for the future of health care? — (Question 8 @ 38:40 in the podcast)

Philip: For the medical students, I encourage you to embrace your naivety. Not knowing that something cannot be done can be an advantage — because you might just go and solve that previously impossible problem. Look for opportunities where the convergence of exponential technologies will have a big impact on health care and then develop that new technology. Dream big!

Nancy: Thanks for joining us on the show today.

Philip: Thank you. It was my honour. I look forward to continuing this conversation with Boldly listeners in the years to come.

About Philip Edgcumbe:
Dr. Philip Edgcumbe (PhD) is a Canadian scientist, biomedical engineer, medical innovator and doctor in training (MDPhD). By connecting medicine, biomedical research, and entrepreneurship, Philip is striving to positively impact the health of a billion people .

In 2017, Philip led a team which developed a crowdsourcing competition to End Alzheimer’s, raised $25 million USD to run the competition, and was selected as the top priority XPRIZE for launch. He has invented, patented and licensed a medical device and was part of two biomedical start-up companies. In 2014 Philip received the Outstanding Young Scientist award at the Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI) international conference. In 2016 he spent the summer in Silicon Valley at Singularity University where he applied exponential technologies to medical innovation. In 2017, he received the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Award. Philip is a Singularity University Faculty members and speaks internationally on the topic of Disruptive Technology and the Future of Healthcare.

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UBC Radiology Resident (MD, PhD) | Singularity University Faculty | Futurist | Entrepreneur

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Philip Edgcumbe

UBC Radiology Resident (MD, PhD) | Singularity University Faculty | Futurist | Entrepreneur