From Nextrends by Emina Reissinger
Technological innovation has always been a driving force behind better healthcare. Yet despite an explosion in digital and consumer health solutions, when it comes to global health real innovation needs to happen at the edge and trickle inwards and upwards rather than from the top down.
In a nutshell: technology, healthcare, and the quality of life
In OECD countries, 20th century medical advances and technological innovations have dramatically improved life expectancy and quality of life. Examples of widespread infectious disease or death at childbirth are virtually unheard of here in the United States. Many early innovations, such as the use of antibiotics, are already being applied in global health. Yet a lack of funds and infrastructure prohibits the level of access to basic healthcare required to eradicate or reduce certain health problems around the world.
In Rwanda, a staggering 63 percent of deaths in 2010 were caused by communicable, maternal, perinatal, or nutritional conditions. In comparison, only six percent of deaths in the US were attributed to these often easily preventable conditions. In Switzerland, the number was four percent.
Image courtesy of California Health Information Technology
Now that we have entered an age of data-driven digital health, technology is quickly lowering barriers to entry for consumer health solutions. Citizens of countries like the US can manage diabetes in the cloud, track heart rate with a wearable sensor, or even perform an EKG using a smartphone app. Sequencing a human genome, which takes just a couple of days and offers incredible insight into disease prevention and targeted therapies, costs less than $5,000. And 23andme’s DIY DNA kit is just $99. We have mind-controlled artificial limbs, after all, and are on the cusp of 3D printing human organs.
But with so much technological enthusiasm focused on digital and consumer healthcare solutions and tech-enabled medical breakthroughs, especially here in the Silicon Valley, the question is can these solutions be translated or even transported to global health?