MedicalExpo e-magazine: The future of medicine you were describing earlier implies a huge structural change in the traditional healthcare system.
Bertalan Mesko: Absolutely. It means a huge change because right now physicians are the only stakeholders who can access medical data and use these new innovative medical devices. But by breaking down the ivory tower of medicine, patients will have the same opportunities. That could create a new balance, a new status quo between patients and physicians. For now, physicians are like Gods over their patients, but they should be equal partners. And hospitals need to embrace new technologies, from cognitive computers like the IBM Watson to wearable devices and other digital channels. Without embracing those technologies they will be left behind.
BM: The jackpot would be to have policy makers eager to change, but it’s not going to happen. I think that only individuals can improve health care. Individuals as patients and as medical professionals, individuals who want to get a better life, live a healthier life, or do their job more efficiently. It must come from us. The patients need to be proactive. They need to find the motivation themselves. At the same time, doctors need to be better at what they are doing and they need technology, digital solutions, to get more efficient in their job. It’s a two-way process.
ME e-mag: But physicians need to be prepared and trained for that.
BM: They need to have digital literacy that will help them with the digital world, whether it’s a social media channel or available technologies that they can use in their practice. They need to have the knowledge and the skills to be able to make their own decisions and their own assumptions. That’s why I have been teaching my students for several years what to do with this technological explosion, how to get ready, how to save time and effort for themselves every single day. Without teaching them, it’s mission impossible. We need to prepare them for this world full of technologies.
For now, physicians are like Gods over their patients, but they should be equal partners.”
ME e-mag: How much money will it cost hospitals to adapt to these new technologies?
BM: It will cost much less than any technologies that have been used before. An electrocardiogram machine costs about 5000 euros. The new wearable electrocardiogram devices cost about 100 euros! We need to make a big jump into the technological world because these kinds of innovations are not only as good and efficient, but they are also much cheaper than current technologies.
ME e-mag: Are they really as efficient?
BM: Even more efficient! Imagine a patient in a remote area with no hospitals around. He needs to miss a day at work, travel, get to the hospital in a city, wait, get a doctor, wait a bit more, get a prescription, wait at the pharmacy and eventually go home. Or, imagine that with a few devices which cost less that 500 euros, in a single location in a very small village, an assistant can measure all these kinds of vital parameters and send the data wirelessly to the hospital. This single change could be a huge improvement. Now we have regulations, we know exactly what to do to make sure that the process of healthcare delivery is efficient and secure. We just need a change of approach from policy makers and hospital managers to make sure that we can implement such technologies in everyday care.