Thinking the unthinkable

In Boston, a couple of weeks ago, I gave an updated version of my talk, "Will advancing technology make doctors unemployed?" It was well received, and sparked a number of conversations after the event.

I opened the talk by referencing that I'd taken part in the 238th re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party in December 2011. Why are the events of 1773 relevant to healthcare in 2014? It's because those people that gathered in Boston all those years ago, thought the unthinkable, they challenged the status quo, not just with words, but with action! That episode escalated into the American revolution, and ultimately independence of America from the British Empire. 

[Speaking of Empires, I found this wonderful book published in 1971, titled; The American Health Empire: Power Profit & Politics]

Please don't be mistaken, I certainly don't compare myself to the brave visionaries who stood up to the most powerful entity on the planet at that time. However, the mindset shown by the people who weren't afraid to consider an alternative future, who dared to dream of a different reality, has inspired me to do what I do. 

I'm used to being ridiculed for my ideas when it comes to data & technology, some say I'm silly, some will say I'm a dreamer, but I ask you something?

Is it wrong to dream of a world where we have zero medical errors? Is it wrong to dream of a world where we can use technology to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society? Is it wrong to dream of a world where 1 billion people who've never had access to a doctor or a hospital, might use a mobile device to access healthcare?

I hold my hands up, I'm guilty of being a dreamer. Many of us dream of a better future, not just for us, but our children, and their children. I'm one of them, and hard working people I meet during my travels around the world also have dreams. 

Now, it's truly fascinating to observe the spectrum of opinions when it comes to the future of technology in healthcare. Take the contrasting statements of two UK doctors on Twitter. 

I'm the first to admit, there is significant froth and hype in the emerging arena of Digital Health, and it's critical that we are able to successfully discriminate between the technology that can really transform healthcare, vs technology that doesn't do much at all (or even puts patients at risk). You'll see that in my recent TEDx talk on 'How Digital Health technologies could make Guernsey the best place to live on Earth', that I remark on the need for Evidence based Digital Health.

Having said that, we must be mindful not to make the process of evaluating & adopting Digital Health so laborious & dogmatic that we stifle the very innovation that patients are most in need of.

One of the thought leaders in Digital Health who continues to inspire me to think differently, is Lucien Engelen, in the Netherlands. He recently published a post, Dr Apple & Dr Google will see you know on LinkedIn. The post is wonderful, but what's really illuminating is reading the full range of comments on his post.

Lucien closes his post by remarking, "For all I know we need extraordinary solutions to the challenges ahead, maybe even moonshots" [For those of you wondering what a moonshot is, in the context of technology, I recommend this great post from Google]

Just published today is a provocative post titled 'Creating a parallel system to health care', by Dr Pritpal S Tamber, a fearless visionary, who always challenges my beliefs. Not only is he a medical doctor, but he's also the pioneer of Wellthcare,  which is an exploration, and an attempt to find new ways to create and value health. [I am honoured to be a Wellthcare Explorer].

In his post , Dr Tamber asks, "Health needs an 'Institute For New Health Thinking'. It needs a safe space for people to propose and debate new thinking on creating health. But who will lead this?" - I suggest reading his earlier posts, he repeatedly asks questions that his peers may well classify as 'thinking the unthinkable'.  

What do YOU believe?

Should we ONLY be thinking of solutions that can integrate within the context of the existing system of health & social care?

Who should be allowed to innovate in Digital Health? Only people who've been to medical school?

Are we wasting our time considering a future where we might not need so many physical hospitals?

Should the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many? 

Do we tell our children that dreaming of solving humanity's biggest challenges is not a good use of their time? 

I know that if I had not dared to 'think the unthinkable' back in 2012 when I quit my job, I probably wouldn't be here writing this blog post today. 

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do - Steve Jobs

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