Dr. Eric Topol is hoping the Digital Health Summit at CES will kickstart a consumer health revolution needed to improve patient access to information and drive down healthcare costs.
Wednesday’s opening panel discussion was chock-full of soundbites from Scripps Translational Science Institute Chief Academic Officer Topol, Life Technologies CEO Greg Lucier — who said technology is moving medicine into the “genetic age” — and UnitedHealth Group Chief of Medical Affairs Reed Tuckson, who described the obesity epidemic as “a tsunami of preventable disease washing over our population.”
The doctor-knows-best attitude is outdated and expensive, Topol added, as new consumer tools bring floods of new information and data to patients’ fingertips. Now what we need is a mass movement — like the one we’ve seen with the Occupy movement — to empower consumers to implement these tools and take charge of their health.
Piggybacking on the notion of a consumer revolution, Tuckson explained consumers must not “ghetto-ize” new healthcare technologies but rather integrate them into their daily routines, as he does by using a calorie counter and pedometer to stay on track. “What I love about the revolution is that I’m integrating health things as a normal function of my life — smartphone apps, tablets; these are things that I’m doing just in the process of living that don’t have to do with reimbursement or any of that,” he said.
But discussion of new apps and devices brought the conversation to an inevitable topic: the data problem.
On the heels of the announcement that Life Technologies is ready to release a machine that can read the entire human genome in a couple of hours for $1,000, CEO Lucier said jobs like genetic counseling will become more important as personalized medicine — which Topol said he abandoned for the less-gimmicky ’individual medicine’ — takes the reigns.
“We’re moving technology into the genetic age,” Lucier said. “We’re going to be probing even deeper at what’s going on in your body to cure disease much faster.”
“I am so excited by the possibilities,” Tuckson concluded, “but I am not seduced by the technology.”
Companies must focus on creating products with greater value that enhance health, give patients access to appropriate care that improves outcomes, and help manage escalating costs.
“Technology for technology’s sake is not exciting,” he said. “There is no more room in the cost curve to accommodate things that don’t add value.”