Looking A Few Years Ahead In Medicine
No doubt, if you ask 5 clinicians about the future of medicine they will have 5 different opinions. Medicine is a very complex field. In comparison, when the internet started becoming more mainstream the paper form newspapers knew their future was going to be on the internet. When Amazon became a big player, companies like Best Buy and Circuit City knew their future was limited… not to mention Barnes and Nobles and Border’s bookstores.
Medicine involves clinicians, nurses along with many ancillary services. On this periphery there are mainly laboratory services and radiology along with pharmacy. Inpatient and outpatient medicine are fairly self-explanatory and the really sick will need hands-on care for the next few decades – technology just isn’t fast enough to make that aspect obsolete.
Surgeries and patient stabilizing will be done in the hospital though there maybe some mobile stations that can go to the patient. Outpatient care however will become more and more technology dependent. On the patient care side, lab tests and radiology studies will become more computerized. Images taken on MRI’s and CT’s and plain films will be interpreted with higher accuracy through computers. Even if the accuracy isn’t there it’s very hard to argue with a machine… no, that’s not a fact, that’s what the general population believes. Look at how dependent the medical field is on simple UA’s and Rapid Strep Tests to make their diagnosis and dispense medication.
We’ll get to outpatient care in a moment. Pharmacists will be able to continue their careers for the next few years but that is definitely one of the first higher paying jobs to become obsolete or much less prevalent. Pills will be digitally labeled so that dispensing mistakes won’t occur. Interactions and dosing will be reviewed by a computer and with the help of EMR large dispensing machines will stand by to give out med’s without the need of a pharmacist. Sure, a human pharmacist will have to be “on-site” for a long time to come but all the technicians and assistants will be obsolete long before then.
I’m not ripping on pharmacists, so if your hubby is a pharmacist don’t go sending me hate-mail yet. Pharmacists will, of course, have a huge role in the inpatient setting and will likely take over the management of medication in the clinical outpatient setting. A patient’s insulin will be managed by a pharmacist and not a clinician. Same with pain meds and blood pressure meds.
Lab technicians are paid small enough wages that their phlebotomy skills will likely remain the same. Interestingly, respiratory therapists likely won’t have to keep doing peripheral ABG’s which they will all celebrate. Suctioning and managing vents is a tougher task to automate.
Clinicians…. oh yes, us. Well, for one thing we will have access to custom-made medications per the individual’s genetics. I know that sounds a little George Jetson but I don’t mean that every single person will have their own medication… people will get ‘genetic profiles’ and meds and services will be tailored to them.
The majority of our visits with patients will become digital touches. It might take one very large destructive epidemic to set that wheel in motion but even within the next 5-10 years we will see this taking place. The only barrier right now is compensation. Once medicare and other health insurance companies agree to compensate clinicians for such services it will blossom. Little ‘medical booths’ will pop up like those Red Boxes.
There will be a little battle at first because doctors in India and Iran and Philippines will likely start seeing patients for pennies on the dollar. However, big pharma and medical device companies will soon not “service” requests by doctors practicing overseas. They will use some bullshit reason like that one case of the patient’s penis falling off because there was gross negligence by this one doctor from such-and-such country.
Private medical offices will disappear for the most part. The little guys will go under or get bought out. Cosmetics will definitely take off much more than it already has. There is still a huge “touch” and “art” when it comes to that so private dermatology offices with advanced technology will actually become quite profitable. Same with genetics, many more clinicians will pursue genetics as a medical career. That should be really interesting.
Will clinicians make more money or less? Will they have better job satisfaction? Will there be a better work-life-balance? Will becoming a clinician be easier or harder? Dunno. Though, I think it will be easier to become a clinician… clinician being someone who directs the care of a patient. This likely will be by way of many more PA’s and NP’s entering the field. And yes, NP’s and PA’s will become something like Affiliate Clinicians or Clinical Practitioners.
The part that excites me the most is that holistic medicine or whatever you want to call it will become huge. There is going to be a large part of the population that no longer seeks longevity, they won’t see disease as an enemy. They will look for management of disease in peace with its existence. Sure, surgery may be needed for something that’s imminently life threatening only if it means there will be a few years of a comfortable life to follow. Think of it as hospice in full scope.
Well here it is, it’s out there now right? A few years from now we shall see how far off I was.
Where do you see medicine going?
Do you think you are well positioned in the health field to keep up with the changes?