The End of Medicine as we know it

August 30, 2014

The past ten years has seen significant advances in disease treatment and research. Some breakthroughs include human stem cell cloning, HIV medication, targeted cancer therapies, laparoscopic surgery, HPV vaccine, face transplants and bionic limbs. These have made great contributions for individuals, medical and health standards and our way of life.

However, medicine is in a state of flux. Medical care is not evenly accessible and can be very expensive. People are questioning the limits of medicine, and whether it merely prolongs life rather than enhances the quality of life. Medicine is arguably becoming a victim of its own successes.

Author Andy Kessler has written a book which tells of the ‘end’ of medicine, with wit and humour (1). His work, The End of Medicine: How Silicon Valley (and Naked Mice) Will Reboot Your Doctor partly predicts the incoming of important discoveries and meaningful changes in the medical field. Kessler believes that technology plays a big part in the advancement, making healthcare much less expensive. Implanting doctors’ medical knowledge in nanochips may sound like a crazy idea, but that’s what this author proposes.

Perhaps technology can help save lives better than doctors. For example, new techniques in radiology, genetics and data management will help pinpoint the presence of cancer cells, diagnose heart problems or scan through human bodies to detect abnormalities.

Radiologists could be replaced by computer-aided detection. Cholesterol medication could replaced by cheaper-in-the-long-run plaque-removing procedures. Dieticians could be replaced by minimally invasive stomach-stapling surgery.


And then, we can only hope, cancer specialists get replaced by an antibody-laden cancer detection chip

With technology at work, people are moving into an era of data-driven, crowdsourced, participatory, genomics-based medicine. Doctors will have artificial intelligence ‘co-pilots’, which will recommend medicines or lifestyle changes based on patients’ full medical history, holistic self, and genetic composition. Existing decision-support systems assist time critical processes such as emergency medicine, intensive care and anaesthesia (2).

Healthcare will likely move to early detection and prevention, rather than waiting for illness to develop. Consultation by video extends the reach and availability of existing services (3). Healthcare workers will return to the human aspects and interactions of healthcare, rather than the mechanics of making an increasingly complex system work.

Further reading.

  1. Kessler, A. (2006). The end of medicine: How Silicon Valley (and naked mice) will reboot your doctor. New York: Collins.
  3. (commercial website showing video- and robot-assisted consultations)

Posted in Blog by Douglas Fahlbusch