Davos outlines healthcare revolution
DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- A new approach to healthcare around the globe could be on its way, according to experts at the World Economic Forum.
“Telemedicine” will cut pressure on doctors and allow patients to stay in their own homes rather than in hospital, having their conditions monitored down the line in new forms of “doctorless medicine.”
Els Borst-Eilers, the Dutch Health Minister, said that the shortage of doctors and nurses in the Netherlands had resulted in an increase in the use of telemedicine, with patients having their bodily functions monitored from hospital while they stayed in their own homes.
It was a reassurance to pregnant women and to people with cardiac problems, she said on Monday.
“Patients love it and have the feeling they are managing the disease for themselves.”
But with medicine becoming ever more expensive people may also find themselves penalised by employers and health insurers for failing to take preventive care themselves, for example by dieting or giving up smoking.
Borst-Eilers also warned on the possibilities of genetic screening for all with a predisposition to a particular disease.
It was fine, she said during a debate on medical advances, to screen those who knew they could adapt their lifestyles to lower risk. But she would oppose genetic screening for diseases where no cure was yet available.
The growing costs of medicine provided a focus for the debate with few at the forum in Davos, Switzerland, believing that western governments would have the political will to impose the tax levels required to make available to all the benefits of all the new medical technology.
William George, CEO of Medtronic, said: “No country in the world can afford the healthcare its citizens want”.
Others worried that people could be penalised by their company healthcare schemes for failing, for example, to achieve weight loss targets when there might have been other factors in their lives hindering their efforts.
Richard Klausner, Director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, predicted an increase in “doctorless medicine” and a changing role for doctors.
But he queried how patient privacy and confidentiality would be assured in treatment over the Internet. Who would set the standards, would it be done voluntarily or by legislation?
Asked if patients would not be alarmed by doctorless medicine he said that people with chronic illnesses wanted rapid access to the specialist when required. But face to face contact with the doctor was not always needed: “The old model of the doctor who knew everything-we’re just beyond that.”
Gerhard Mayr, vice-president of pharmaceuticals, at Eli Lilly, complained that governments were the enemy of medical progress. They lagged far behind private industry in their research expenditure and held up the introduction of innovative new drugs to the market with price approval procedures.
If the next generation were to be spared the likes of heart disease and diabetes then governments had to “wake up “ and spend much more money now.
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