September 2015: The Future of Health Care

How Will the Nature of Healthcare Evolve in the Next 10 Years?

What will health care look like in 2020, and beyond? What new technologies will help consumers? Will pharmacogenomics become popular? What are some possible game changers? And what are the business implications for companies involved in these industries? That’s the topic futurist Michael Vidikan discusses with Pat Rullo, author of Speak Up and Stay Alive.

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Pat Rullo“Any encounter with the healthcare system has the potential to cause further harm, so it’s important to enter with your eyes and ears open, with some knowledge, and with the intent to ask questions and speak up,” says talk show host Pat Rullo, author of “Speak Up and Stay Alive.”

That is what her company is focused on.

An author, radio show host, and insurance industry expert who has served on the advisory boards of New York Life Insurance Company and Transamerica Life Insurance Company, Rullo has written numerous business magazine articles. She has also written several books: “Worksite Marketing — A Promise to Deliver,” “Succeed With Style,” and “When Daddy Plays Golf,” in addition to “Speak Up and Stay Alive.” For her own health, Rullo makes time for daily contemplation in her pink kayak at her summer home on the Chagrin River in Ohio and does tai chi in the desert at her winter home in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

In the September issue of Future In Focus magazine, she digs deep and asks questions that give us a look at forecasts for how healthcare might look in the coming decades.

Scroll down for her Q&A with FutureInFocus.com founder Michael Vidikan, who both aim to help companies see years or even decades into the future to help make better long-term decisions today about healthcare.

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Michael Vidikan, participating in Movember 2014

Pat Rullo: At Future In Focus, you use trend spotting and forecasting as a way to help your clients develop their strategic plans. I think it’s interesting to think about looking forward to figure out what might be coming our direction as a way to prepare and maybe stay out of trouble or maybe take advantage of what’s coming. So with that in mind, what do you see as the future of healthcare in the US?

Michael Vidikan: I see significant challenges ahead for the medical industry – we’re talking about hospitals, insurance companies, and other health providers. Unfortunately there’s so much regulation and government involvement in the healthcare system. As a result, there’s so much administrative overhead. This has led to a wave of hospital consolation as hospitals try to get bigger to manage the administrative costs.According to a survey by the Physicians Foundation, 77% of physicians are pessimistic about the future of medicine and many independent physicians are leaving their practices to go to the hospital systems to avoid the administrative burdens.

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Where I think we’ll see the most positive outcomes will be where consumers are empowered by technology to improve their own health. Studies have shown that dieters who weigh themselves regularly lose more weight. That’s because they have something to track and they see the changes based on their actions. They adopt better behaviors.

What we see coming are a wave of new technologies that will give consumers power over their own health so they can make the best decisions for themselves.

Pat Rullo: What are some examples of the new technologies that will help consumers? 

Michael Vidikan: Are you familiar with the X-Prize? Peter Diamandis started it about 20 years ago as a $10 million challenge to any team that could develop private space flight. Since then, there have been a variety of XPrizes and recently Qualcomm launched a $10 million Tricorder challenge (based on the Star Trek device) to any team that develops a mobile device that can diagnose 15 different diseases.

Nurse and elderly man spending time together --- Image by © Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc./Blend Images/CorbisSo that’s where I think we’re headed. Consumers will have a stronger role in diagnosing their own illnesses and diseases through the use these high tech devices. The home will become the new center of healthcare.

That’s going to cut out a lot of doctor visits right there. People will know if they’re really sick, and whether they should see a doctor, or maybe just stay home and rest.

Also, parents will be able to use these kits to test their children and themselves. Instead of going to the doctor, sitting in the waiting room, taking a test and waiting for the results, these new health diagnostics will provide nearly real-time results. With telemedicine, they’ll be able to share the results with their doctor remotely, use video conferencing to chat, and the doctor can write a prescription which is then delivered via Amazon PharmaDrone within a few hours.

Pat Rullo: What do you see as some possible game changers? 

4622338415_9f9b9de0f9_nMichael Vidikan: I’d have to say restorative and regenerative medicine. This is a relatively new field that wants to create and repair living tissues. It’s a bit of science fiction that becomes less fiction every day. We’re talking about the possibility of growing new limbs and organs using a person’s own cells so there’s no chance of rejection. We could grow new cartilage for an NBA star that blew out his knee in a game or even create a kidney for a patient on dialysis who’s on the wait list. Thousands of people die every year because of a shortage of donated organs so this would a real game changer for them.

There’s also research being done to try to regenerate insulin secreting islets in the pancreas. This would effectively cure diabetes as we know it.

Another possibility is 3D printed organs. In fact, there’s a company called Organovo that is 3D printing tiny livers on a microchip which are being used by pharmaceutical companies to test drugs for liver toxicity. We’re still awhile away from printing a full size liver, but the potential is there.

There are going to be lots of challenges before much of this technology can be commercialized– some technical, some ethical, and some regulatory. But it’s really an exciting field to watch.

3511507607_07f60134f1_nPat Rullo: Are you familiar with pharmacogenomics – the idea of using people’s DNA to see if they would have an adverse reaction to pharmaceuticals?

Michael Vidikan: I’m glad you brought that up. There are forecasts that sometime in the next 10-20 years, DNA sequencing is going to be so cheap that everyone will be able to do it. And we’ll be able to learn so much from our genome.

When I got married, my wife and I did a genetic analysis through 23andme to see if we were at risk for passing on any genetic defects to children. It was really incredible to see the results I got back because it went much further than just inherited conditions. The results included information about health risks to things like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes – I’m fortunately at low-risk for all of those. And it also included information about sensitivities and responses to specific drugs like blood thinners.

I think this area of science has tremendous potential for patients.

Pat Rullo: Last but not least, tell us about your involvement in 2014 with the nonprofit organization, Movember.com.

Michael Vidikan: I’ve been involved for about five years in this annual philanthropy campaign where men grow mustaches for the month of November. We look a little foolish sometimes so people ask us why we have a mustache and we respond we’re doing this to raise awareness about men’s health issues. A lot of people don’t know that men tend not to go to the doctor very often. We try to be manly. Our dads told us to “man up” when we were hurt so as a result a lot of men don’t go to the doctor when they should. They don’t speak up when they’re in pain. And men also don’t want to talk about being depressed or having suicidal thoughts. So we’re trying to change these stigmas.

I hope more men will join Movember this year and women as well because they encourage their men to be healthier.

For additional insights on the future of healthcare, listen to the entire interview.