“We can print a house in 24 hours; we have built exoskeletons that turn you into Ironman; and we’ve got the amazing self-driving vehicle. But these are cute technologies, the best is yet to come: in a decade or so, we go to Mars!” We spoke to Dr. Bertalan Meskó – Director of the Medical Futurist Institute – who believes that healthcare needs that trip to Mars: that technological advancement means we’d have healthcare systems that are accessible, personalized, preventative and augmented. Meskó argues that it’s not just the technical advancements that we need, though – healthcare needs a cultural change to really allow for that huge technological leap to really make waves.

With doctor shortages, a need for 5 million more healthcare workers around the world, a lack of trust emerging between patients and providers, and expensive technologies further dividing people, the healthcare system is in much need for innovation. “We are at the bottleneck of innovation – we have 30 new technologies coming out every week, a technological tsunami, and we must be better at making the most of this opportunity”, Meskó argues.

“Since the dawn of medicine, we’ve been collecting data about patients. We have been asking them questions, examining them, measuring and obtaining their data, and we – medical professionals – have to make decisions based on those datasets. But the tools we’ve had to use have been quite rudimentary – body temperature, blood pressure, et cetera – but now as patients start to use digital health technologies like sensors, wearables, and genomic data, they bring an immense amount of data to the doctor-patient examinations.

Professionals should be able to analyse those kinds of data, but no human being is able to do that alone, it’s impossible to analyse it all effectively without the help of AI.” We are at the bottleneck of #innovation – we have 30 new technologies coming out every week says @berci #moonshotvisions #healthcare #AI #wearables Click To Tweet

Afraid of the Unknown 

Meskó argues that despite the technology available for use in healthcare, the fear of the unknown is preventing their infusion into existing health systems. “We are afraid of AI, of robotics, of replacing people. But we have to embrace the fact that we cannot compete cognitively – we need help to make the best decisions for our patients. We need to embrace that we need a cultural transformation in healthcare – not technological, not regulatory, not financial, but a cultural one. We need to accept that we have been averse to change, but now with such constant technological change, we must realize that it’s a positive kind of change.”

Meskó talks about another change required – a change in how the patient interacts with the healthcare system, and how healthcare professionals should welcome this step forward. “We need new technologies that infuse the patient-doctor relationship and put it on a new level. My vision is that in 10 to 15 years from now, patients will become the point of care – you’ll be able to get diagnostics and treatment wherever you are without going to a physical place because you’ll be able to use sensor technologies, among others.” Despite available #technology in #healthcare, the fear of the unknown is preventing their infusion into existing health systems says @berci #moonshotvisions #AI Click To Tweet

Embrace Patient Design

“We in healthcare should say this out loud: ‘We cannot do anything without actively involving patients’. Healthcare today asks so many different kinds of people for advice, but we don’t ask the patients themselves.”

Meskó is passionate about the need for C-suite level advisory boards with patients on them, and for the shift required in the vertical hierarchies which have always existed with physician on top and patient at the bottom: “We must shift the doctor-patient relationship from a hierarchy into an even partnership, because patients can bring so much more value to the table.

I’m a proactive patient: I measure data and I want to bring it to my GP when I discuss it, and I want to prevent stuff from happening, not just get medical help when I have a disease or symptom already.” We in #healthcare should say this out loud: ‘We cannot do anything without actively involving #patients' says @berci #moonshotvisions #patientempowerment Click To Tweet

Technology Doesn’t Replace – it Augments

“We need systems that support us – the humans – in the work we do,” Meskó argues. “A radiologist shouldn’t have to go through 60 normal scans when a computer can do it – no repetitive, non-specialist task should be part of a radiologist job.”

As much as Meskó believes that technology can advance healthcare, he’s also very sure in his assertion that it cannot possibly replace the human factors: “I believe in the cognitive power people have. Patients need empathy, and while you can mimic empathy with AI, it’s not the same feeling as you trust another human being. Empathy is so important, and it’s because of this that we’ll always need the person to lead the patient relationship.”

At the heart of what Meskó believes, is that if we’re really to get that healthcare equivalent of the trip to Mars, we must be much more accepting of the idea that healthcare workers must be supported and augmented by advanced technologies. But to get to that place, the culture within healthcare must emerge out of its traditional vertical hierarchies and embrace this new, empowered patient.

The future of healthcare is bright, if only we allow it.

We are afraid of AI, of robotics, of replacing people. But we have to embrace the fact that we cannot compete cognitively – we need help to make the best decisions for our patients.

Dr. Bertalan MeskoThe Medical Futurist Institute

Dr. Bertalan Meskó, PhD is The Medical Futurist and the Director of The Medical Futurist Institute analyzing how science fiction technologies can become a reality in medicine and healthcare. As a geek physician with a PhD in genomics, he is also an Amazon Top 100 author. He is also a Private Professor at Semmelweis Medical School, Budapest, Hungary.

Gemma Milne

Gemma Milne

Gemma is a Freelance Science and Tech Journalist, with bylines in Forbes, BBC, The Guardian, and Quartz, amongst others. She is currently writing a book on hype and idealism in science and technology, to be published in 2020 by Little, Brown. Gemma is also also Co-Founder of Science: Disrupt - a media organisation which produces podcasts and events on science innovation. She is an International speaker having delivered keynotes at SXSW, TEDx, WPP Stream, Cannes Lions and Dubai Lynx. Gemma works with the World Economic Forum as one of their Global Shapers, is an Expert Advisor for the European Commission and is on the Innovation Jury for SXSW and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.


  • As a retired IBM technologist and futurist, I agree that the future of healthcare is bright, if we allow it. The accelerating pace of tech innovation can certainly enable it, but it cannot cause it.

    Yes, we see circuits, components, and medical sensors and devices constantly getting smaller, cheaper, more accurate, and easier to use, allowing many medical functions to move down-market from doctor offices to patients at home or on the go. Yes, we envision a blending of science and technology (INFO + BIO + NANO + NEURO) that will help personalize medicine. And yes, enterprise-level AI, robotics, and automation are already beginning to assist practitioners and caregivers alike.

    But reforming American healthcare is not as easy as adopting technology. If only it were – and we could make affordable healthcare available to all Americans, reduce per-capita costs to what other advanced nations pay, and improve longevity and outcomes to match what they achieve at half the cost – we could save well over $1.5 trillion every year.

    Unfortunately, the profit motive and misaligned incentives in our broken healthcare (sick care) system make that healthcare “moonshot” difficult. The medical industrial complex doesn’t want to lose revenue, profit or jobs, so it spends massively to influence public policy and prevent that.
    No, healthcare reform is not easy. To even make a dent in it, we must know Why American Healthcare is So Expensive to begin with. I touch on many of the issues, but not all of them, here: https://www.mhealthtalk.com/expensive/.

    • Nicole Verbeeck Nicole Verbeeck says:

      Dear Wayne, thanks for sharing your thoughts to this article. If you can also share your comment on Twitter by mentioning this article so its reach expands and more stakeholders in healthcare can see this. I am also interested to hear more of your insights. Please mail me at nicole@moonshot4life.com if you can. Also I want to hear from IBM about AI, maybe you can help. Thank you.

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