The Future of Healthcare: Free Will Or Determinism?

Apple’s latest announcement of the Apple Watch made me take a deep breath, pause, and consider the impact to healthcare. To patients. To communities. To me.

On the one hand I am a total technology freak. I love my toys, my gadgets, and how things are designed. How some stick out like a sore thumb and others meld into the background and become common in our daily lives.

With the announcement of the Apple Watch, it made me think about the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report. I can remember Capt. John Anderton using his fingers to move data, images, facts, and figures around on a translucent screen. I remember the solid oak balls rolling effortlessly down the slide. Only to reach the bottom with a name engraved on the ball of a person who is predicted to commit a crime in the future.


It forces us to ponder the question of free will versus determinism. Do humans have the ability to make a decision of their own free will when the future is set and known in advance?

Is this the world we are moving towards in healthcare? Is this the Holy Grail for healthcare?

As all of us begin to use more fitbits, jawbones, apps, smartphones, smart watches, and other technology to monitor and collect the data that our bodies produce, what will happen?

Obviously the data will be commoditized to businesses. Our data will be sold, re-purposed, and fed back to us via marketing and advertisements. We will have more and more “targeted” noise sent directly to us based on our personal habits. All in hopes to win more of my dollars, or in the future, my digital currency.

When I think of healthcare, I think there is great promise in leveraging data. Whether it is in ensuring that rooms and equipment are available when it is needed by patients, or that staff is available to care for patients, or late at night when a mother awakes to her coughing child, that there is an easy and simple intervention to comfort both child and mother.

I also believe there is opportunity in looking at genomic data for specific diagnosis and developing smarter, cheaper, less invasive, with fewer side effects treatments and medications to improve a patients quality of life.

There is also potential in trying to educate and motivate people to change their lifestyles and habits. Perhaps there are groups of people susceptible to obesity or diabetes that need daily reminders, or monetary incentives, or family support in order to make better choices and decrease their risk.

At the same time, I worry that the Holy Grail in Healthcare is a world in which everything becomes “predictive.”

Will my data be sent from my personal device to my local healthcare organization? Once it is received by the healthcare system it is then parsed, spliced, and placed into the electronic medical record. Once in the medical record maybe it will be sent through an algorithm that will calculate and predict that in the next month I will have an accident, or that because I hit age 40 I will gain 15 pounds, and due to that “predictive future” my premiums for healthcare coverage increases.

Maybe it foresees that I will end up obese, suffer from CHF, and become diagnosed with cancer by the time I hit age 72….and due to that “predictive future” my care “pathway” is different to save costs, increase access for other patients that are younger, will live longer, or have a better “predictive future” than the one I do?

Does the wood ball roll down a slide and say I am not worth the added cost, time, or effort????

I go back to MedX and the comment made by Brit, @HurtBlogger, “…my story is not a yes or no answer to a question. My story is one of yes, but….”

Humans have the power to make the impossible possible.

If we have the capability to dream it, we have the ability to make it a reality.

An algorithm can lead us to understand patterns.

An algorithm will never take into account that I am an “outlier,” that I deliberately choose to change the story of my future.

I have the power to decide today the words and actions I use to create my sentence for tomorrow, my paragraph for next month, the chapter for years to come, and the story I tell in the future.

I have the power to choose my own story. That story cannot be predicted.

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek


#PtExp #PX #cancer #hcldr #hccosts #hcsm #stories #storytelling #lcsm #bcsm #hcmktg #mktg #storyteller #hcpt #consumerism #hcbiz #CX #UX #UI #Bioethx #storytelling #stories #ContentMarketing #HIT #PX2014 #moodring #ring #health #wellness #design

One response to “The Future of Healthcare: Free Will Or Determinism?

  1. I think I have always been an ‘outlier’, or at least my history would bear that out, including my response to chemotherapeutic agents. We can predict trends and patterns, but then what happens to the individuals who don’t match those patterns? Do we get tossed aside as not worth the time and effort? If we have a disease that is extremely rare, does money get allocated for research on that disease? When we have finite resources, who makes the decision about who lives and who dies? There are no easy answers, and I can’t say this person’s life has more value than that person’s life because of age, disease, race, gender, or any other attribute.

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