patient history, highlighting potential problems, and making it easier
for doctors to share their diagnostic
thinking. Although he doesn’t think
it will happen soon, someday computers may even guide doctors toward a
diagnosis. Schiff has invited the creators of IBM’s Watson, the machine
that beat a duo of Jeopardy
champions earlier this year, to address that
possibility at the Diagnostic Error in
Medicine conference he’s co-chairing
But health information need not be
limited to doctor’s visits and lab tests.
A second PCAST report, “Designing a
Digital Future,” focusing on networking and information technology, was
released a week after the health IT
report. It envisions a more comprehensive, lifelong record that includes
not only treatment history but also a
genetic profile, psychological characteristics, behavior patterns, and exposures to risks that might be relevant to
health. While such a record could benefit individual patients, it could provide even greater value when stripped
of personally identifying information,
combined with similar records, and
subjected to data mining algorithms.
It would, for instance, create a sort
of extended clinical trial for approved
drugs, says Susan Graham, a computer
science professor at the University of
California, Berkeley, and a member
With an entire
records at their
might also find
of the report’s working group. Today’s
drug trials stop with the approval of a
medication, “yet while people are tak-
ing these drugs there’s an accumula-
tion of experience about what the side
effects are and what the potential ben-
efits are,” Graham says. The health-
care group Kaiser Permanente has
already demonstrated such a benefit;
electronic records for its 8. 6 million
members helped identify the link be-
tween the painkiller Vioxx and an in-
creased risk of heart attacks.
Health records could also be fed by
devices that collect information about
people as they go about their lives. The
U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) system already uses the Health Buddy,
an electronic device that plugs into a
home phone line or Ethernet socket.
Each day patients answer a series of
questions tailored to their particular
medical conditions, asking, for example, whether they have taken their
medications or about their glucose
levels. Answers are sent to the VA and
flagged if they show warning signs.
“Versions of that will be in every
home, or at least every home where
there’s a health condition that could
be supported by that,” says Molly Joel
Ten Disruptive Technologies
the next decade will bring 10
technological changes that will
transform the world, says dave
evans, Cisco’s chief futurist. in
his opinion, they are:
˲ ˲ The Internet Of Things. evans
predicts the number of internet-connected “things” will reach 50
billion—more than six devices for
every person on earth—by 2020.
˲ ˲ The Zettaflood Is Coming.
this year the world is creating 1. 2
zettabytes of unique data, mainly
as a result of high-definition video. evans expects 91% of internet
data will be video by 2015.
˲ ˲ Wisdom Of The Cloud. ev-
ans says that, by 2020, one-third
of all data will live in the cloud.
“already, the cloud is powerful
enough to help us communicate
through real-time language trans-
lation,” he notes.