A Must Read: The Creative Destruction of Medicine

The Creative Destruction of MedicineFor me, one of the big advantages of healthcare social media is learning more about our system, our role, and the opportunities ahead. A few months ago, I learned about a new book being written by Eric Topol, M.D., entitled The Creative Destruction of Medicine. It sounded intriguing so I immediately pre-ordered it. The timing was perfect, as it was being released right before HIMSS12.

As luck would have it, I also noticed that Dr. Topol would be speaking at HIMSS. I placed that session on my schedule and attended. I finished the book the Sunday prior to HIMSS12 opening. It was a great way to begin this health IT event.

There is a lot of detail in the book, but it is one all should read, especially people who work in healthcare. The opportunities and challenges ahead are clearly outlined. After reading it, you will likely wish we could just fast forward to this new world of truly personalized medicine.

There are a few key points to highlight, with the goal of captivating you enough to read the book and engage in the transformation discussion.

We have a social infrastructure to bring people together around their personal care.

“More than 40 percent of us are ‘hyper-connected’ as defined by using 7 different devices and 9 different applications in order to stay as screen connected as possible, from restaurants, from bed, and even in places of worship.” (The Creative Destruction of Medicine, p. 5)

An essential point here is that we have the capability to connect. We connect with our families, friends, and other communities through the available social networks. We see these connections happening in healthcare where people with similar conditions or care objectives come together to share, learn, and get better.

We also see the connection points come together in our cell phones. With our wireless devices, we are using apps to monitor, record, and deliver data about how we are performing in our daily health activities. It is more personal.

While health tracking can be more personal, our interactions can be more community-based. More than ever before, we can bring like-patients together. This opens new resources in our care and new partnerships.

We have a human body architecture that is unique.

“If there is anything to marvel about, it ought to be the human body. During one’s lifetime, the heart beats about three billion times with minimal irregularity and consistent force of contraction. We breathe over six hundred million times; our lungs nurture our cells with oxygen and dispose of carbon dioxide…” (The Creative Destruction of Medicine, p. 59)

Although our bodies perform similar functions, the human genome can provide better insights into our health risks as well as targeting our health treatments. Our care doesn’t have to be about generating individual solutions based on general population characteristics. Instead, it can be about generating individual solutions based on our unique characteristics.

There may be several hurdles to cross to accelerate the number of individuals who can obtain data on their personal DNA, but the time is coming. It is about the “democratization of DNA” and our individual ability to get it done and have it as part of our personal record. Although some say it must go through a doctor (e.g., American Medical Association), Dr. Topol argues differently and agrees with a blogger that wrote:

“To say that this information has to be routed through your doctor is a little like the Middle Ages, when only priests were allowed (or able) to read the Bible. Gutenberg came along with the printing press even though few people were able to read. This triggered a literacy/literature spiral that had incredible benefits for civilization…”

The same can be true when it comes to our personal genome and being the owners of the information, which we can share and discuss with our physician.

Our health care system will need to “reboot” and adapt to the transformations underway.

“Eventually there will be enough digital native physicians to take charge, but that will take decades to be accomplished. In the meantime, consumers are fully capable of leading the movement and contributing to medicine’s creative destruction. And so they must.” (The Creative Destruction of Medicine, p. 195)

In light of this book, Meaningful Use seems so 1990s compared to the type of changes that really need to happen. Even so, getting patient data into a digitized form is essential. Electronic personal and health records are a necessary element.

By reading Dr. Topol’s quote above, you can tell it is a “call to action” for all of us, because much needs to be changed. Think about it.

  • The way medicine is taught will need to shift.
  • The way the life sciences industry produces treatments will need to shift.
  • The way patients engage their health and interact with physicians will need to shift.

Having said this, the key transformational elements are in place to facilitate these shifts.

Although I might not be giving enough justice to this book, my hope is that you can see the type of changes Dr. Topol is highlighting. The great thing about The Creative Destruction of Medicine is that, after you have finished it, you can really feel how the parts fit together to create this needed change.

Dr. Topol walks through the trends and leverage points logically, passionately, and completely.

My advice: Pick up this book, read it, and engage actively in making these changes happen. To paraphrase Dr. Topol, “and so we must.”

Have you read The Creative Destruction of Medicine? If so, what is your take?


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Jon Mertz serves as the editor at HL7Standards.com and vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Jon is an advocate for strong patient engagement in their health and understands the key roles health literacy, patient data, and healthcare interoperability play in developing a better health care model. Follow Jon on Twitter.