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The future of health care: “A wild ride”

Imagine a future where sensors embedded in the fabric of your clothing, a device in your pocket and a super-smart remote computer is all you need to keep on top of your health. Robotic surgeons never make mistakes, virtual emergency rooms provide remote diagnoses, and clinicians pass through and a fully reimagined medical education system. Sensors tell you what to eat and when based on your own biological needs. Patients have access to a file with their own genetic code and tools that give them the means to understand it. “I’ll become the CEO of my own health,” Peter Diamandis predicts. This is the picture physician, engineer and entrepreneur Diamandis painted in a talk at 2014 Institute PLUS, a gathering of America’s Health Insurance Plans. Diamandis, who is CEO and chairman of XPRIZE, urged attendees to think big and bold about the future of health insurance – because he assured them someone, somewhere unexpected is doing just that – and existing stakeholders in health care must carve out a role for themselves now among the innovators. “Your competition isn’t some billion-dollar company … it’s some kid who’s going to try some crazy idea and disrupt you.” Progress is unfolding at an exponential pace, something we linear-thinking humans are ill-equipped for, Diamandis says. That means faster, cheaper computing power that is fueling access to high-tech resources such as three-dimensional printing, robotics, synthetic biology and artificial intelligence, all areas that have clear applicability to health care. And all indications point to placing power in the hands of the consumer, literally. Next on Diamandis’ radar is a handheld device that can run assays such as analysis of DNA expelled with a cough to diagnose acute conditions. “This is about democratizing access to health care and diagnostics,” he said, arguing medical costs could fall along with such innovations as technology becomes rapidly cheaper and more accessible. Health insurers should draw from across industries to find the innovation to keep up with and get ahead of the curve, Diamandis said. “You’re in for a wild ride ahead,” he said.