What will health care look like 20 or 50 years from now? Binge-watching dystopian movies could provide some clues. Or hear the details from a new report by a group of futurists trying to predict what the medicine of tomorrow will be. Researchers at the Jacobs Institute, a nonprofit made up of doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs focused on medical innovation, sought to identify what corners of health care are most likely to spur future creations.
Po Bronson, senior editor of the report, says that many of these innovations are bound to change life for the better. “For the vast majority of the population, they’ll feel a true sense of progress and regain confidence in the medical system,” Bronson tells Newsweek. Sufferers of what Bronson refers to as the “big four” diseases—cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cardiovascular—will feel that change most acutely, he says. But routine medical care will also be better. “That utter lack of control will be replaced with rapid telemedicine and health chat that has your medication on the way via Uber in less than an hour.”
Still, what these researchers are envisioning—snapshots below—hardly resembles what we currently think of as medicine. Although wearable tech and genomics are already changing health care, we are a long way from Gattaca or The Handmaid’s Tale—for now.
Welcome to your future:
Conception: You won’t need a man to have a baby. Scientists will be able to manufacture sperm from a woman’s very own stem cells to fertilize her own egg, what could be known as uni-parenting. Additionally, thanks to CRISPR gene-editing technology, doctor will be able to remove disease-causing genetic mutations from a developing embryo.
Birth: Women may be able to choose to not endure pregnancy and childbirth for the full nine months. Expectant moms could turn over their fetus in the second or third trimester and finish the incubation period in artificial wombs.
Mental health: The psychoactive components of many street drugs—MDMA, psilocybin, ketamine, ibogaine—may become the most effective legal treatments for mental health conditions. Medicine will be electric with biosensors, computer chips and telemetry data that allows patients to limit their time at the doctor but still receive care.
Emergency medicine: Ambulances will drive themselves. Drones will be first responders. An artificial intelligence anesthesia machine puts the patient under for emergency surgery conducted by a robot without the help of a human doctor.
Preventive medicine: Your primary care physician will be supercomputer with all of the right algorithms that will precisely determine a diagnosis and treatment plan. A programmable flu shot will eliminate the need for an annual injection. Early risk assessment for diseases such a breast cancer and Parkinson’s could be detected through genetic testing, and medicine will shore up all of its innovations to find a way to prevent the illness from ever occurring.
Disease treatment: Nanoparticles will clear out plaques in the arteries and prevent heart attack. Virtual reality headsets will help slow—or stop—the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
End of life: Hospice centers will be equipped with virtual reality pods that allow patients to visit their most favorite places in the world (the beach, Paris, their home) before death, without leaving their hospital bed