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Technology Is Extending Into Our Health Care System

Every day, and in many ways, we are all witnessing the ongoing creep of technology as it winds its way into and around so many of our daily experiences. We can see it in our own lives, and we can see it on an industrial scale. Not surprisingly, the medical industry is having a technological revolution of its own. 

Trending in digital health

Christina Farr is a digital health technology expert for CNBC in San Francisco, and she has been following the march of big technology companies such as Amazon, Alphabet and Apple into the health sector. “Amazon seems to be particularly exciting,” she says, “because it has the potential to upend huge, stagnant industries like the drug supply chain.”

Farr concedes that a lot of what she writes about today is futuristic ideas and trends, which aren’t yet mainstream. “But in the past year, I do believe we’ve seen some widespread adoption of technology into health care. It’s now become fairly common for people to think of talking to a care provider on a mobile phone, which is a new phenomenon,” she says. “It’s amazing to me how well some of the new mental health and meditation apps have done, like Talkspace, Calm and Headspace.”

Farr also gets a lot of questions about the potential of artificial intelligence being incorporated into health care solutions. “I haven’t seen many examples of that in practice, although I realize there’s a lot of hype around AI. My theory is that it will be most useful on the operational side of health care, rather than clinical.” While it’s exciting to think about AI diagnosing disease and delivering targeted treatment, Farr believes we’re still a long way from having the tools and procedures to do that effectively. “I think we’ll see technology used more in helping hospitals run more smoothly, or in helping insurance companies figure out who’s most likely to get sick.” 

Next steps

So, what does the immediate future of health care have in store for us? Farr points to One Medical’s “Treat Me Now” app. “You snap a picture if you have a health issue, and you get a response from a nurse practitioner via phone telling you whether to book an appointment or not. A lot of the time, you can solve the problem through an over-the-counter medicine. That seems like a clear way [that] technology could reduce costs in the system.” 

Still, at the end of the day, despite the technological wizardry and the myriad of sparkly, twinkling ideas buzzing about on the horizon, Farr is quite certain about one thing that will not be changing anytime soon. “I still think the most important relationship in health care is the one between the doctor and the patient.”

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