The ability to self-manage our health could break down barriers to efficient healthcare, but only if doctors embrace the technology

Healthcare is the fastest rising cost to taxpayers in advanced western economies. The ability to self-manage our health is one of the best ways to rein in the rising costs. And the obstacles to bringing these costs down for consumers are often the medical practitioners who insist the only way to practise is to exchange letters with each other, to write illegible prescriptions and to refer patients to specialists for information they can now gather on their smartphones.

Dr Eric Topol, an American cardiologist and professor, raised the ante on this in his 2015 book The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands. His observations about digital disruption in the healthcare system offer an insight into how doctors have been slow to embrace new technologies. Topol was alerted to this when he received a text message from a patient with a screenshot of an electrocardiogram he’d run on himself from a smartphone app. “I’m in afib [atrial fibrillation]. Now what do I do?” the patient asked.

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