Medicine looks incredibly different than it did a century ago (which I think we can all say thank goodness for that). From new technology such as MRI scanners and antibiotics, to improvements in logistics, such as widespread immunization programs and organ-donation schemes, medicine seems to be constantly modernizing. But for every revolution in medicine that's complete, there must be a dozen more that haven't even started. Quick lab diagnostics are great — now how do we make those affordable for clinics in rural Africa? Patients are gathering their own genetic and lifestyle data — now how can doctors use that to improve their medical care?
Shake It Up
Over the last couple of months here at Citizen Science Salon, we've featured ten different projects in the "Exploring a Culture of Health" series, brought to you by SciStarter, Discover, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These projects aim to shake up medicine as we know it. Some of those were directed at medical professionals. We asked nurses to share their on-the-job workarounds; we encouraged medical staff to imagine a better doctor's office experience; and we solicited ideas for how charts and graphs could better communicate complex health ideas. Other questions were posed to organizations, such as hospitals, governments and schools. We challenged orgs to think up ways to reuse wasted supplies, to ensure privacy for patient-supplied data, to improve their community's overall health, and to provide support to kids who've faced childhood trauma. Finally, the blogs posed questions to all of us as patients. Would you use a free online course to learn more about a health condition you or someone close to you had? Would you volunteer personal information to help scientists study a disease you have? Would you use an app to track your daily habits and report them to your doctor?
We live in an interesting time, where data is paramount and whole industries are built on its sharing. Our smart phones sync with wearable sleep-trackers and pedometers, and we can share that data socially. Wired clothing and smart contact lenses are in development to provide even more real-time vitals. These devices for the moment are for personal use, but someday doctors could, with your permission, also view these feeds and use them to help improve your health. What are your ideas for how smart gadgets could make people's lives healthier? Maybe a new app or a new device? Perhaps a reformed approach to medical charts that could integrate user-generated data? Maybe ways to use social networks to encourage healthier behaviors? Or maybe something we haven't even thought of before now... We want to hear your ideas. Leave them in the comments below, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The most inspiring ideas will be featured in an upcoming print issue — and may just bring about yet another exciting revolution in healthcare.
Image adapted from kimberrywood / Shutterstock