Interview: medical futurist Bertalan Meskó

pharmaphorum spoke to Dr Bertalan Meskó about his passion for improving healthcare and his views on how the sector will evolve.

What’s exciting about your field at the moment?

Plenty of trends and technologies are truly starting to shape medicine worldwide, from cognitive computers being used in medical decision making to devices measuring vital signs coming to our homes. In addition, 3D printers are used to print out biomaterials; thousands of people are getting their DNA sequenced; sensors are becoming tiny and comfortable such as digital tattoos; smartphones are gamifying our health and becoming home laboratories. The whole process and structure of healthcare are dramatically changing.

It says ‘medical futurist’ on your business cards, but what is your job really about?

When I fulfilled my childhood dream and became a doctor with a PhD in genomics, I wasn’t satisfied as my geek side was left out of the picture. In order to resolve this, I had to design myself a new profession in which I could use disruptive technologies to put physicians and patients on the same level globally.

What is healthcare going to be like in 2035?

It is certainly not going to be paternalistic, institution-based and purely empirical. Patients will be able to measure any health parameters, from ECG to genetic sequences, at home, as well as have access to any medical papers or information online. Physicians will act as guides for their patients in the digital health jungle instead of being the key holders at the gates. The medical decision-making process will be a partnership and the best decision trees will be available, as cognitive computers will organise the details of delivering healthcare – from organising waiting lists to finding the best potential therapy. Doctors will have more time to deal with the patients instead of the technologies around them. The ever improving technological solutions will make a more humanistic healthcare system.

What or who provides you with inspiration?

Seeing how people suffer from badly designed healthcare and the lack of information has been a constant inspiration for trying to improve the delivery of healthcare for everyone. Patients who share their stories in social media and physicians standing out as thought leaders working for change are inspiring me every single day.

Conversely, what person, thing, or problem would you like to wish away?

I wish everyone had access to the best potential information and solution for their health problems. I wish everyone would be proactive in their lives trying to prevent diseases and take care of their own health first. I wish physicians could enjoy practising the art of medicine instead of suffering from the burdens of administration and having to deal with bad technologies.

How do you switch off from work?

I do not really switch off as my job is what I love to do. I constantly communicate with people around the world, working on issues that might change healthcare for the masses. I have a digital brain and crowdsource every potential problem it comes across. Otherwise, I do exercises every day and I’m a science fiction movie geek.

What book would you recommend everyone should read?

Eric Topol’s new book, The Patient Will See You Now and Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence are amazing books.

About the interviewee:

Bertalan Mesko, MD, PhD, is the author of The Guide to the Future of Medicine and a medical futurist. He graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Debrecen’s Medical School and Health Science Centre, gaining the Weszprémy Award, and holds a PhD in clinical genomics with summa cum laude.

As a medical futurist, he envisions the next steps and trends for companies and governments in order to ensure that a mutually beneficial symbiosis between the human touch and innovative technologies will govern the future of healthcare.

He is the managing director and founder of Webicina.com, which curates medical and health-related social media resources for patients and medical professionals. He has given over 500 presentations and is a health 2.0 consultant for pharma and medical technology companies. Healthspottr.com included him in the Future Health Top 100 list and was included in the New Europe 100 list in 2014.

He is the author of the Social Media in Clinical Practice handbook and the multi-award-winning medical blog, Scienceroll.com. He is also the founder and lecturer of the online and offline Social Media in Medicine university course, which is the first of its kind worldwide.

He is a member of Mensa International and the World Future Society. He has been selected by the Huffington Post as one of the 30 biotech thinkers with the biggest global impact.

Have your say: What do you think healthcare will look like in 2035?

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