For many people, smartphones and tablets have changed many aspects of everyday life over the past decade. They have changed how we communicate and how we find and access information. Doctors and pharmacists will increasingly encounter patients who have researched their condition online, or who have self-diagnosed with the assistance of ‘Dr Google’. Medical apps are being developed, which, for example, help patients track their medicines use, or monitor their blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure and calorie intake.
According to Eric Topol, US cardiologist and professor of genetics, this is just the beginning. In his book, Topol introduces the reader to the current state of play of digital medicine, providing a clear overview of the topic. We get a glimpse of what the future of medicine may look like. He compares the rapid changes in information technology today with the development of the Gutenberg press (i.e. a tipping point for change). Digitalisation, he argues, will ultimately lead to democratisation of medicine, with better access to testing and information for all. Topol makes his arguments in a coherent and accessible way (a background in computer science is not required). Each topic is described logically, with context, and the book’s strength lies in the use of descriptive examples of where technology has been (or could be) used to change individual patients’ lives.
Also interesting are his descriptions of technologies in development, such as mobile diagnostic devices that can be linked to smartphones to detect pathogens or cancer cells, which could be used in low-infrastructure environments. The book is well referenced for readers who want to learn more. This is a thought-provoking read for anyone involved in the provision of healthcare. Ultimately, this is a book about patient empowerment, and it will be interesting to see how much of it unfolds as Topol has forecast.
‘The patient will see you now’ by Eric Topol. Ppxi+364 US$28.99. New York: Basic Books; 2015. ISBN 978 0 46505 474 9