So how would all these innovations fit together? How would the health-care system be different—and how, from a patient’s standpoint, would it feel different—from the one we have today? Imagine you’re an adult with a chronic condition like high blood pressure. Today, your contact with the health-care system would be largely episodic: You’d have regular checkups, at which a doctor or maybe a nurse-practitioner would check your blood pressure and ask about recent behavior—diet, exercise, and whatnot. Maybe you’d give an accurate account, maybe you wouldn’t. If you started experiencing pain or had some other sign of trouble, you’d make an appointment and come in—but by then, the symptom might well have subsided, making it hard to figure out what was going on.
In the future as the innovators imagine it—“Health 2.0,” as some people have started calling it—you would be in constant contact with the health-care system, although you’d hardly be aware of it. The goal would be to keep you healthy—and any time you were in danger of becoming unhealthy, to ensure you received attention right away. You might wear a bracelet that monitors your blood pressure, or a pedometer that logs movement and exercise. You could opt for a monitoring system that makes sure you take your prescribed medication, at the prescribed intervals. All of these devices would transmit information back to your provider of basic medical care, dumping data directly into an electronic medical record.
And the provider wouldn’t be one doctor, but rather a team of professionals, available at all hours and heavily armed with technology to guide and assist them as they made decisions. If, say, your blood pressure suddenly spiked, data-processing tools would warn them that you might be in trouble, and some sort of clinician—a nurse, perhaps—would reach out to you immediately, to check on your condition and arrange treatment as necessary. You could reach the team just as easily, with something as simple as a text message or an e-mail. You’d be in touch with them more frequently, most likely, but for much shorter durations—and, for the most part, with less urgency.
Sometimes, of course, office or hospital visits would be necessary, but that experience would be different, too—starting with the hassle of dealing with insurance companies. Watson has a button for submitting treatment proposals to managed-care companies, for near-instant approval, reducing the time and hassle involved in gaining payment authorization.