Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., is the president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. An Excerpt from Stat, JANUARY 26, 2019

I can’t wait for a future Davos when we talk less about self-driving cars, and more about self-healing humans. That future is close.

The future empathetic, creative, and communicative clinical workforce will have one great challenge: understanding that 80 percent of what determines a person’s health comes from factors outside of direct medical care. We know health depends on employment, education, and opportunity. We know that your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code. We know less about how to translate that knowledge into better health.

If we can combine ideas from consumer industries about engaging with people and applying technology, it will provide each of us more control over our own health data, which we can use to disrupt legacy health care delivery.

We have some powerful starting points.

  • We need to use technology to create “health care with no address.” We cannot build enough hospitals, or spend enough money, to treat everyone with legacy hospital-based systems of care. Telemedicine will be the treatment platform of the future.
  • In an age in which augmented intelligence will take over the tasks of memorization and robotics, we need clinicians who are selected and trained to be human, to be creative, and to be empathetic.
  • We need to merge population health and personalized medicine to ensure highly targeted care for individuals and communities identified with genetic risks for disease.

Disruption can be made to work across income levels. It is easier to move health care to a phone than it is to move hospitals to remote communities. That is a revolution that is starting now.

A hundred years ago, we needed doctors who could remember details stretching from biochemistry to anatomy. Today we need doctors who can interpret computer analysis and make sense of it for real people. We need doctors to answer the question “What does this mean?”

If we fail to embrace disruption, the consequences of clinging to legacy systems of care will become even greater, further growing a fragmented, expensive, inequitable health delivery system. The U.S. has strung together popsicle-stick-and-glue federal policies that continue to graft Star Trek-level medicine onto a Fred Flintstone delivery platform. It’s not working for us, and it won’t work globally.

My prescription for an optimistic future for health care is straightforward: Embrace disruption. Make the patient the boss.

 

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