Science Fiction Story: Predicting the Future of Healthcare in the next 20 -100 years


Medicine_Seller_by_winterlotusOne day, one seeker organization inside open innovation platform Innocentive.com – asked for SF stories predicting the future of medicine, healthcare and pharma industries and patients.

I chose to express my vision under the form of a mini-script where I wanted to enter the system with the help of a few characters and see how things will look in the next 20-100 years.

The most interesting part is that the best ideas and a better hand and inspiration in writing the mini-script came to me after I finished and sent it :))

***

STARK

NEAR FUTURE. DUSK. EXTERIOR. METROPOLIS

Due to the growing worlds’ crisis and on the background of communication globalization, the magnitude of world’s problems, paradoxes and challenges can be better seen and understood.

Crowd sourcing, crowd funding, entrepreneurship incubators and accelerators, social business and many other new growing more or less conventional waves engage ordinary people in solving world’s problems of all kinds.

The power of one individual and his potential to impact the world at such level had never been greater.

Raising awareness global statistical information and breaking news headlines “escaped” the online environment, people’s computers and mobile apps and now it rolls on huge outdoor dedicated high tech billboards and screens in all public places:

“POVERTY is so high that 80% of humanity lives with less than 10$ a day”

“DEPRESSION is the 2nd death cause in the world after HEART DISEASES”

“PHARMA INDUSTRY is one of the most PIRATED industries”

“VEGETARIAN life style is a growing trend

“800 women die every day due to complications of pregnancy and child birth

“More than HALF of public facilities LACK essential medicines” 

“MEDICINE costs in PRIVATE SECTOR are PROHIBITIVE” 

“68 years is the average life expectancy at birth of the global population”

“Globally, around 57 million people DIE each year. Almost 15% of these deaths occur in children under the age of 5”

“50% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for health does not flow through governments”

“8 out of 134 countries do not have at least ONE computer tomography device per MILLION inhabitants”

“22% of the world’s population aged 15+ is made of SMOKERS”

“23% of the global disease BURDEN is attributable to the ENVIRONMENT”

“50.1% of the global population is living in an URBAN area”

“828 million urban residents live in SLUM CONDITIONS worldwide”

“24 more years on average a female can EXPECT TO LIVE in a HIGH INCOME country than a low income country”

From time to time the screens get empty and problems to be solved bump up under the form of catchy headlines followed by a code. Entering that code into one’s mobile app or PC – the details of the problem, award and further instructions reveal.

Educated and high skilled people who fall from the system have the option to engage in the problem solving world and to survive as there are no safety nets available, anymore.

As free internet is available in many places due to Wi-Fi technology, if one has a mobile – there is a good chance to afford living for a while, maybe change life circumstances and to also change the world by engaging in the world’s social and business problem solving.

STARK is staring fascinated at one of these big screens while he eats a sandwich on a bench in the central park. He is in his 20s and you can see in his eyes the passion and dream of conquering the world.

One breaking news headline attracts his attention:

 “A Romanian research woman invents a medical device able to identify CANCER in its most incipient stage by self-taking blood samples that are automatically analyzed by the miraculous device. People will soon be able to buy it from drug stores.”

A man, looking like an old beggar, stops and sits down on Stark’s bench. He follows Stark’s look, nods his head like one who knows more than the others and says:

 Old bagger looking man:

“Self-medicine is a huge part of the future, boy.”

Stark wakes up from his concentration and looks at him with questionable but smiling eyes.

You can tell from just watching the beggar face that he once was someone. Maybe someone important like: a university teacher, a doctor, a researcher, or maybe just a passionate innovator.

Stark looks at his hand-watch and says:

 Stark:

“Oh man, I am so late. Take this and take care. ”

He gives the rest of the sandwich to the beggar and a few bucks, gets up from the bench and leaves in hurry.

After making a few steps, he hears the beggar screaming behind his back:

 Old beggar looking man:

 “Help! Help!”

A bunch of bums attack the beggar and try to take his sandwich and the money that Stark gave him.

Stark gets back and fights the bums. He isn’t much of a fighter.

 Stark (shouting while fighting):

“Leave him alone, you tramps.”

One of the bums injects Stark in his back with something like a needle. Stark is down. The beggar hides. They beat Stark to death and take his wallet, clothes and shoes.

LATER IN THE NIGHT

The beggar lies next to Stark and he checks out his vital signs. He nods as if things are not quite pink. He presses with his fingers a few points of Stark’s body in a mysterious but calculated way and says:

 Old bagger looking man:

“Come on boy, come on. There is future waiting for you. Not quite pink – judging after the rhythm in which central banks print money, but anyway…Wake up, son. Wake up.”

 A few seconds pass. Stark opens his eyes. His eyes are like stone, opaque and very scared. He can’t speak and he can’t move.

20 YEARS LATER

OVERVIEW

Targeted facilities (niche medical investigation units) started to appear.  They are those medical units which respond to 2012 statistics regarding the diagnosis major issue in the medicine area – a paradox (on the background of high tech medicine gear and devices):

 “Over 30% of patients are not correctly diagnosed”

In these diagnosis targeted medical units, the interaction between doctors and patients is more personal and more traditional, like it happened in the old days.  They are medical units mastered by generalists and doctors in medical sciences rather than specialists.

They have all the high tech last generation gear and devices needed, but their attention and focus is mainly towards putting the right diagnostic and/or correcting/ solving initial medical diagnostic errors and less on designing the best schemes of treatment.

The first seeds of dedicated diagnosis facilities started to appear under the form of Virtual Clinics, “Dr. House” type of virtual clinics (dedicated to rare and mysterious medical cases) and of the online platforms focused on medical diagnosis problems and on medical guidance.

These virtual clinics are globally scaled and offer the patients the great opportunity of second opinions coming from big name doctors from all over the world, better guidance regarding clinics options and treatment; live consulting sessions using the internet and so on.

Tangible improvements started to appear in the diagnostic medical field because huge databases with medical cases from all over the world are centralized and more and better research can be done.

Teams of doctors examine and re-examine the cases; they are all doctors in medical sciences with secondary degrees in complementary sciences like: phytotherapy, nutrition, chemistry, biology, and so on. Depending on the cases’ complexity they also go online using the virtual clinics and engage more worldwide doctors and residents in its solving.

Due to virtual clinics also medicine education changed a lot, residents being able to take part in real time at a diversity of medical acts from diagnosis to surgery; and to access worldwide valuable databases and case studies.

Medicine had to “go back” in the area of diagnostic in order to rebalance the quality of medical act but with a new vision and new instruments due to high tech fast development and huge volume of patients’ data.

Pharma industry couldn’t handle anymore the competition with vegetarians, vegans and naturists products sold by tertiary developers and enter also this market and started to enter the online environment very aggressively in order to protect itself from piracy and from competition. This way it also connected to the overall medical system.

DIAGNOSE MEDICAL CARE UNIT

Stark is examined by a team of doctors. There is a hologram image of his entire body, like a new type of multidimensional X-ray. Worldwide doctors and residents take part in real time in solving Stark’s case by being connected at his virtual room through one of the most famous virtual facilities Doc’s World.

Stark looks like being in a sort of coma. Among the doctors there is the old looking beggar. We can see on his badge that his name is Bill Landers.

They all study Stark’s multidimensional X-ray with great deal of focus on the brain area.

They first extract a liquid with nano chips from Stark’s brain. Then they inject another liquid with new and upgraded nano chips.

After a few minutes Stark suddenly wakes up. He shouts and struggles:

 Stark:

“What happened?” Where am I?”

Bill:

“Chill out, boy. You lost your conscious again. You are in the diagnostic medical facility.”

Stark (looking at Bill with a surprised face):

“ It’s you…But how…(Looking at his badge) Dr. Bill Landers? You’re full of surprises, man”

Bill (smiling):

“Yeah, that’s me. I’ll tell you again the whole story at lunch, but come to your senses first.”

Stark:

“Again?”

LATER. MEDICAL FACILITY. LUNCH AREA

Stark and Bill have lunch in a beautiful garden on a top of a skyscraper. Bill talks, Stark listens fascinated.

 Bill:

 “…and from that injection during the beating, something weird happened to your body. Some kind of unknown virus attacked your brain. As bums stole your wallet, you are a John Doe since and I became your tutor. I called you Stark.

You keep loosing your consciousness for no apparent reason and you always loose most of your memories. This is how you became part of a top experimental diagnosis program. In fact we both became part of it.

In the beginning we managed to put you in a controlled coma as a measure of conservation until better solutions could be found. What we could do was to record all your memories and dreams on nano chips that we periodically inject in your brain.

Regarding me, I reversed the initial thinking according to which patients have to wear chips in order to faster identify their health problems. So I asked myself:

                   “What if, we – the doctors wear chips so our knowledge and bigger volume data to be better deposited inside of our minds, faster connections to be done and so to manage to provide better diagnosis by just having a contact with the patients; so to faster and better identify the flows and irregularities? What if by this we manage to create new upgraded human senses for doctors; and later also for humans?”

Because each patient is different and general patterns didn’t prove to work when it came to best diagnosis, some of top doctors and researchers agreed to enter this medical experiment. Of course, it is in its beginnings but the start-up results and insights are promising and very challenging.

By just touching you in certain key points, due to the chips that are implanted inside of me I can faster read and scan all your body regularities and irregularities, I can better process huge volume of data and do better quality analysis and interpretation. If also you as patient have chips implanted, then more info about your condition and your health history and trends is available through data exchange between us. The brain is still the biggest enigma of all. There are many closed doors there that we need to open. “

Stark:

“You say that I can literally watch all my memories and dreams by just downloading them from those chips? Like watching a movie or like reading a book?”

Bill:

“Well, technically yes. Still, it’s very new and unpredictable technology for the moment and data is encrypted; but small parts of it may be translated, redesigned like a photo or picture and interpreted with the help of science and last tech medical and psychological machines. We engaged artists like painters, sculptors, singers and film makers to help us interpret and design your recordings”

Stark:

“Wow”

Bill:

“I faced a chronicle depression when my wife died of cancer. This is when we met on that bench in the park. I was a well ranked doctor and researcher, but depression put me down. I also got very sick and started to loose everything that I built in life.

If it weren’t for you, neither of us would be here now. Fortunately and unfortunately! “

Stark:

“Each time I woke up from these faints you tell me this long story? What is that I remember?”

Bill (while nodding):

 Well, the truth is that you’re quite blank. Still, the secondary positive effect of recording your dreams and memories and playing them to you on a constant basis is that they act like a sort of “teacher” for you; they train you about yourself, about reaching your potential, about the things that lie inside of you and you couldn’t access by approaching them conventionally.

There are plenty of skills and knowledge that you have learnt since you are a permanent resident here. In fact you became one of the unconventional researchers in this experiment.”

Stark:

“It seems to me that I became a humandroid. I wonder how I can have feelings without having memories. I feel very troubled about this entire thing. If I don’t have memories, shouldn’t I feel neutral? Blank? Then why do I feel like a black void absorbs me? ”

Starks becomes nervous and agitated. He instantly faints like how a radio turns off when you pull the plug.

Bill scans his body with his bare hands. He touches him in a very calculated and precise way. He puts on his glasses, presses a small button and directly on his eye retina a set of images with Stark’s vital signs, his latest dreams and other similar cases and data is broadcasted. At the same time, worldwide doctors connect online to the case, watch carefully and virtually team-up with Bill in solving this new crisis of Stark.

MILLA BERKOVICH, an interesting wild figure doctor in her 30s enters the place. A hologram with Stark’s multi-dimensional body and coordinates is rising from her hand-watch.

 Milla (towards Bill while turning off the hologram):

 “I’m Dr. Milla Bercovich, the new doctor who joined your reverse-thinking experiment on doctors. It seems that women DNA behaves differently in reading and processing huge volume data than men DNA.  Let’s hope that together we’ll solve Stark’s enigma and that we won’t become robots too fast. ”

Before Bill can say anything, Milla hugs Stark.

She stays like this a few moments. With her hands she presses a few key points on Stark’s body. While she does that, the multi-dimensional Stark’s hologram that rises from her hand-watch changes some of its colours and parameters.

She wears the same kind of high tech glasses like Bill’s and she watches parts of Stark’s new dreams that are now recorded next to his vital signs. She smiles. Bill smiles, too.

She pulls out from her pocket a red handkerchief and puts it under Stark’s nose.

After a few moments Stark opens his eyes.

A team of medical assistants enter the room, take Stark and move him into his monitoring room.

 Bill:

“What’s the thing with that handkerchief?”

Milla:

 “We studied in my parallel research project all Stark’s dreams and memories during these years and we extracted a majority of possible combinations of smells from the most intense moments of his dreams. Then we camouflaged specific vaporizing drugs having these smells that apparently have a neurological impact over him. We hope to discover new positive leads to solving Stark’s enigma.”

Bill:

“He faces depression every time he wakes up from these faints, especially after the longer ones. These multiple depressions affect his overall health condition. In time we managed to shorten consistently the time between his faints

I am thinking to move him in a medical designed house and to permanent monitor him from distance. I think it’s time for him to interact again with the real life and challenges; maybe rebuilding motivations will help him on the long run.  What do you say about being his guide outside and his permanent watcher in this new experimental phase of the program? “

DAYS LATER. MORNING

Starks sleeps in a new apartment. The alarm clock rings. Stark wakes up.

After a few moments he goes to the bathroom.

He breathes in the mirror. A part of the mirror turns into a sort of medical device screen with a variety of functions. It measures some health indicators.

Mirror (robotically voice):

“No abnormal signs detected. Lungs values and functions normal.”

A sensor launches two rays towards his eyes and the same part of the mirror changes into a different type of device screen.

Mirror (robotically voice):

“No abnormal signs detected. Eyes values and functions normal.”

He enters the shower. The water particles that touches his skin records body information and transmits it further into a central monitoring system. The mirror turns again into a different kind of measuring device screen showing different types of data and graphics.

He gets out of shower and heads towards the living. He sits in his armchair. A masked system incorporated in the chair like an arm comes out, takes a small blood sample and analysis it during few minutes then shows a series of data on a display.

The entire house friendly medical system incorporated in the beautiful commercial designed furniture is connected online with the general medical facility. It’s the way his health evolution is constantly monitored.

He dresses up and leaves the house.

EXTERIOR. METROPOLIS.

Stark is walking on the streets of the big city.

Many things changed a lot since he couldn’t get out of the medical facility.

The overall healthcare system is split in two unequally shares:

  • for the poor
  • for some

He realizes that what he experienced during all this time is “for some” piece of the equation.

Milla is behind him and watches him for a few seconds. Then she intervenes.

Milla:

“Don’t feel guilty. Nobody could handle the medical system crash. It happened all over the world and it will take a few more years for the latest changes to have a positive broaden impact. Still, despite appearances people receive better services than before. From another perspective your problem solving means thousands and hundreds of thousands of people’s problem solving.

Mobile medical facilities are placed all over the city. They provide cheap basic healthcare and treatment facilities.”

Milla:

“They also provide under 1$ medical devices that are overall monitored in a centralized system.”

Stark:

“How does this reshaped centralized system function?”

Milla:

“Almost all people’s health is monitored in real time. There’s no time gap between the moment when someone feels sick and the ambulance arrival or help providing. Each person vital signs are monitored and the interventions are made instantly. Some from distance, when possible and some at the action place.

This way spreading diseases are better controlled, better research is achieved, and a much more insightful big picture is obtained. ”

Stark:

“But isn’t that too expensive?”

Milla:

“Overall, yes; but it’s not government that pays for it. It is the alternative and unconventional healthcare networks, smaller systems and economic models that solve the problem in manners less addicted to governments and tertiary funds.

In time, a network of alternative and very innovative micro local systems developed into a bigger new system which emerged with the functional parts from the old one and became a new system which is still shaping itself”.

Stark and Milla pass by a huge outdoor commercial with a medical facility saying: “Rebuild your body”

Stark:

“What does it mean?”

Milla:

“Human body shops and age reversing products and services started to appear in a commercial way, more than in the past.

A few organs can be now grown, no transplants needed. Artificial organs and depending on your budget even natural organs from your own tissues! They are in their beginning on the market but there are plenty of people who try their chances.

It’s also a chance given to poor people. As bad as it might sound, they can be tissues and cells donators for growing organs for the richer and sicker. In exchange they get free life time health care services or money or medical insurances – on short, a chance to start over their lives.”

Stark:

“Well, you’re right. It does sound bad! Hope it works better than it sounds! What happens with the non-eligible poor donors; with their health?”

Milla:

“Pharma and medical devices industry developed a dedicated segment for the poor as the poor market became the market where the majority of people lived; a very very rich market if looking at it as a whole; a market made of billions a month. Under 1-10$ pills and medical devices for a very large spectrum of pain and diseases are available on the market.

Dedicated insurance products developed for poor segment, like the 1 -10 dollars a month/year medical insurance for a quite satisfactory range of health care services in dedicated mobile medical units; monitoring and guiding from distance, and so on.

Medicine students developed most of the dedicated medical units for the poor. These units are managed and monitored by expert doctors. This way, students can work & learn while studying without charging the poor for the services.

They developed a free model medical system: each patient to pay whatever he/she affords and wants. Despite all bad odds given by business angels and politicians, they managed to permanently raise enough money in order to provide poor people with further treatment, not only diagnose. In time they also managed to pay themselves small but decent salaries. Their free economical model proved to be very sustainable in this industry.

Now, would you like to have lunch?”

Stark (smiling):

“You read my mind.”

Milla smiles back. They find a pub near a park and sit there.

Milla:

“Can you feel anything if you don’t have memories? I saw a lot of your dreams while working in Bill’s doctors’ experiment and at your mystery case; they are very intense and colorful, but very out of this world.

I would like very much to understand. Of course, if it doesn’t bother you.”

Stark (smiling):

“I don’t know. Except the times when I feel like being absorbed by a void, I can’t tell – as I didn’t interact with too many humans outside the hospital. I have feeling towards situations. And….”

He stops and looks down.

Milla:

“And…?”

Stark (he blushes):

“And…even though I can’t remember anything after I wake up from my weird faints, there’s one thing that I can’t get out of my system and that I keep remember it.”

Milla smiles. She embraces a playful but very curious face. She waits for Stark to continue his line of thought.

Stark looks at her and smiles. She smiles back.

He starts to get serious and to change his face color.  Some medical monitoring small devices that Milla wears start to beep. She instantly stands up and strongly hugs Stark while pushing an alarm small button.

Milla:

“Don’t faith, Stark. Stay with me.”

Bill enters live with Milla.

Bill:

“Did he faint again?”

Milla:

“Yes, send a crew to take him right away to the facility. He’s worse than ever before. He started bleeding this time.”

Bill:

“Right away. God, help him!”

Milla waits the crew while she strongly hugs Stark. From time to time she checks up the medical devices.

 80 years later

INTERIOR. MEDICAL FACILITY.

Stark opens his eyes. He looks like in his 40s.  He tried to get up but fails.

Milla enters the room. She looks unchanged.

Stark (smiling):

“I know you from somewhere, don’t I?”

Milla (smiling back):

“I’m your doctor. Maybe this is where you know me from.”

She helps him to get up. He goes near the widow and watch outside. There are only clouds and sun rays.

Stark:

“Where are we?”

Milla:

“Somewhere on the verge of the Planet; we found here a spot where conditions were much better for our research and treatment for some diseases and enigmas; so with the help of technology we managed to build a medical facility out here.”

Stark:

“Wow…and I, who am I and what am I doing here?”

Milla starts to tell Stark the entire story.

Stark:

“And what happened with old Bill Landers?”

Milla:

“He died many years ago, but not before to donate his functional body organs and tissues to you. Due to his gesture and also to the latest human body shops all your organs could be replaced or consistently improved, excepting your brain. We discovered a lot about it, but we are still far from exploring its entire potential.

Nevertheless, Bill was right. The future went towards self-medicine. With renewed organs people could take care of themselves alone in most of the time. Pharma industry developed new kind of drugs dedicated to artificial and reshaped organs”

Stark:

“And what about your doctors experiment? How did it turn out?”

Milla:

“Our method and theory proved to be a success. We saved, improved and add length to many people’s lives. Our discovery and novel approach generated a lot of change into doctors-patients relationships and diagnose problem overall; not to mention into the overall system.

We solved your health enigma. We weren’t sure about it until you woke up. You were the first beneficiary and survivor. This is why the method holds your name.”

Stark:

“But what about depression? How did its solving turn out?”

Milla:

“Depression was harder to fight as it was and still is a war with the invisible forces and human beings inner demons.

Until the ‘80s music and film were made from the heart. People’s hearts were warmer.

Then all started to change faster and music and films were made from the mind. People hearts got colder. This is how more and more people got lonelier, unhappier, depressed and feeling dark and without sense on Earth; feeling despaired.

There were a few very hard and critical years when we didn’t know whether we’ll die or reborn. The speed of change was so high and so powerful that surviving and staying bodily and mentally healthy was a real challenge.

The shift from the unbalanced that had been created to a new balance state of being were there could be more equilibrium between our heart, body and mind was quite a ride for many of us. Depression was at its pick during those times until recent years when things reversed direction after many global and national active measures made at all levels had effect.

Still many depression programs developed with the help of technology. Also pharma developed more evolved targeted drugs that better helped people with this condition and mental health problems in general.  While more brain mysteries were solved, more mind and brain drugs appeared and more body health problems were solved. Still, also new diseases appeared.

The greatest depression program of all was developed by some passionate students who formed a mixed intercultural and interdisciplinary team.

Depressed people were offered a small entertaining and multi-functional device to permanent wear that monitors their state of being. Once their overall mental condition drop under a certain level, automatically people in a similar but a little better state of mind come in and initiate contact with the one who faces a new falling process or breakdown.

All the people enrolled in the program are monitored by specialists and they intervene in really critical moments. The entire thing became a whole system where mental health issues and mind enigmas are treated and solved. People get better, new communities are formed and so on. It is really incredible.

Humans really improved their mind control and as a result they improved also their health.

The greatest achievement of all was that while improving their overall health, people also improved their reasons and motivations. This led to more clarity and as a result to better innovative and unconventional solutions to our world’s problems.”

Milla talks and Stark listens fascinated while he asks questions from time to time.

EXTERIOR. CITY. DAYTIME.

Stark and Milla walk around the city.

People look younger. The entire atmosphere is lighter and brighter and cleaner and breathable.

They stop on a pontoon at a margin of the city and watch the ocean. It’s bluer.

Stark take Milla’s hand in his hand.

Stark:

“What about that? To start living my life at 120 years old !”