The Wireless Revolution Hits Medicine


"The digital world has been in a separate orbit from our medical cocoon, and it's time the boundaries be taken down."

The Wall Street Journal, Ron Winslow

After 14 years as chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, Eric Topol moved to La Jolla, Calif., in 2006 to become director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, which was established to apply genetic discoveries to personalized medicine. Three years later, he helped launch the West Wireless Health Institute, for which he is vice chairman and which is investigating use of wireless technology in the delivery of health care.

The convergence of these two fields—genomics, marked by the rapidly plummeting cost of sequencing a person's entire genetic code, and wireless, with its flurry of innovative health-care apps—led Dr. Topol to write "The Creative Destruction of Medicine," a book that offers an illuminating perspective on the coming digitization of health care. It's also a reminder that while medicine is one of the globe's premier drivers of innovation, it is also a conservative culture that now finds itself buffeted by transformational change. The Wall Street Journal's Ron Winslow discussed the implications with Dr. Topol.

WSJ: "Creative Destruction" is a provocative term. What needs to be destroyed?

Dr. Topol: There are two levels. One is that in medicine, everything we do essentially is at the population level. Whether it's mass screening or giving the same medication to all people with a particular diagnosis, this doesn't recognize the individuality of people. I think it's fundamentally flawed. We now have the tools to do much better.

The other is this analog world medicine lives in. The field has resisted a truly remarkable digital infrastructure. It hasn't embraced genomics, wireless biosensors or advanced imaging that could be used to make medicine more precise. The digital world has been in a separate orbit from our medical cocoon, and it's time the boundaries be taken down. . .View Full Article

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