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Dr. Eric Topol on the future of patient/physician relationships

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | April 30, 2013
From the April 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


Creative destruction
As with all radical change, this could face stiff resistance. An Accenture/ Harris Interactive poll released in March found only 31 percent of doctors believe patients should have unfettered access to their electronic medical records. “I saw that poll, and I tweeted it,” Topol says, noting that it generated the most retweets he’s had from any post. “That’s the paternalistic problem of medicine,” he says. “It’s going to get disrupted, that’s why I use that term creative destruction. We’re in for big-time destruction. That attitude, the controlfreak thing, isn’t going to work.”


Medicine unplugged
One possible low-hanging fruit of the do-it-yourself medical shift could be home sleep tests for sleep apnea. These cost around $3,000 to have at the hospital, but an app working with cheap sensors could measure oxygen saturation in the blood and other factors, and allow tests to be conducted in the comfort of the home for a fraction of the cost. “It’s one of the exemplars of unplugged medicine and where it can go,” Topol says. He knows this, in part, because he’s tried it on himself, doing a sleep test at night with some portable equipment. “I could go through the night’s oxygen stats pretty quickly,” he explains. While a member of the general public would have a harder time reading the data, a program to process it could be easily developed. “Medicine changes very slowly. It’s this glacial speed,” Topol says. “We have an opportunity to move quickly here.”

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