Dr. Eric Topol’s Vision: Your Phone as a Portable, Individual, Digital Medical Device

Posted on August 13, 2013


Sometimes, the best innovators, the ones who make the biggest leaps in progress, are not those who make an original invention, but rather, those who fully grasp what can be done with that invention in their own fields of expertise.  Cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol is one such innovator, with sweeping and yet completely achievable ideas on how to improve the average person’s access to, and benefit from, modern medicine using something many of us already have in our pockets:  our smartphones.

In Dr. Topol’s vision, a few well-conceived applications and sensor attachments will be capable of performing all manner of informative tests anywhere, anytime, and allow real-time communication between patient and doctor – all without the need for a trip to the doctor’s office, and at a tiny fraction of the cost of such tests today.  Dr. Topol sees patients as empowered, fully involved in their own care, and essentially, as part of their own health-care team.  Even when the patient needs to come to the doctor’s office in person, these applications will allow immediate testing in the office, by the doctor, with the patient’s active participation.  What a difference from being sent to some other clinic for some obscure test two weeks from now, then waiting another two weeks to hear back from the doctor’s office about the results – all without ever even seeing the actual test results or images for oneself.

Check out this interview in which he explains his ideas for the smartphone technology:

He has also written a book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care.

The US has the highest per-capita health care costs of any industrialized country, and yet the quality of our care lags behind that of other developed nations.  “Obamacare” is rightly criticized for failing to address these fundamental problems.  Well, here is a doctor with a simple, and brilliant, idea that could make an exponential improvement in our access to health care and bring those costs down.  The only question is:  will anyone listen, or are we stuck with a slow, clumsy and expensive system, trapped under the sheer weight and inertia of a senseless bureaucracy?

Call me a pessimist, but… I suspect the latter.  I hope I am wrong.