What does the future of healthcare look like? - interview

Dr. Daniel Kraft explains how the progress of technology and its impact on the medical world has allowed medical professionals to reimagine the future of health.

Dr. Daniel Kraft speaks onstage at the Klick Health Ideas Exchange on June 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (photo credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Klick Health)
Dr. Daniel Kraft speaks onstage at the Klick Health Ideas Exchange on June 15, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(photo credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Klick Health)

The world of medicine is changing faster than ever, with new treatments and technologies being discovered all the time. The Medicine 2042 conference, taking place between June 8-9 in Tel Aviv envisions the future of medicine and science, and what that might look like in the year 2042 and beyond.

The largest conference of its kind, Medicine 2042 is headed by Dr. Nadir Arber, a researcher, physician, and professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Tel Aviv Medical Center and Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine.

Over the two days of the conference, leading voices in the world of science and medicine will come together to present, discuss, and analyze groundbreaking research on diseases and conditions such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes and more. 

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of his appearances at Medicine 2042, Stanford and Harvard-trained physician-scientist Dr. Daniel Kraft explained how the progress of technology and its impact on the medical world has allowed medical professionals to reimagine the future of health.

“I went through the traditional pathways and specialized in hematology and oncology, but I got very interested in the sort of convergence of technologies, and how we can leverage those to rethink and reimagine many elements of healthcare across the paradigm from wellness and prevention and healthspan, to diagnostics, to therapy, and to public health, ” he said, explaining the path his work has taken over the last decade.

“Part of what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years is helping connect the dots on how we understand the pace and change of accelerating or exponential technologies, whether it’s wearable or low-cost genomics or AI or 3D printing," Kraft said.

He examines "how those technologies are converging, sometimes super converting, to enable us to reimagine how we do healthcare.”

"A lot of amazing healthcare innovation, from digital health to diagnostics and beyond, all just come out of Israel."

Stanford and Harvard-trained physician-scientist Dr. Daniel Kraft

Moving from sick care to healthcare

“I think a big picture element is that we don’t really tend to practice healthcare, we practice sick care,” says Kraft. “Sick care is sort of based on our old models of usually only collecting data in the four walls of the clinic, or the hospital or the Intensive Care Unit.

“And that intermittent data might be your blood pressure, your labs, your vital signs. And because that data is normally only collected when you’re in the clinic or the emergency room, that leads to a very reactive mindset — we tend to wait for patients to show up with a heart attack, or a stroke, or late-stage cancer," he said.

“And so, a lot of the potential of today’s technology, let alone what’s coming next, is enabling us to be much more continuous with our data.”

The continuous collection of data could come from a wearable device like a smartwatch, says Kraft, or from home-based diagnostic equipment or even a smart interconnected home system, the likes of which have become more and more common in recent years.

“That continuous data, which can be collected anytime and anywhere, can give us much more personalized, much more proactive, and much more targeted prevention, diagnostics, and therapy.”

Stanford and Harvard-trained physician-scientist Dr. Daniel Kraft

Quantified Self vs Quantified Health

The term "Quantified Self" refers to people's use of technology to gather data about essential patterns of their life, particularly fitness and health. And, according to Kraft, the world is currently experiencing a shift from Quantified Self to Quantified Health — in which health professionals will also be able to access that same data. 

“I have five different devices going right now,” laughs Kraft, displaying his smartwatches, and even a smart ring that has the ability to track his sleep activity and oxygen saturation. 

“We can look at [all that data] on our smartphones, we can check our sleep scores, our heart rates, and [a smart device] might even pick up a problem like atrial fibrillation,” he explains to the Post. 

“But it’s going to start to shift from quantified self to quantified health. The data from our smartwatches, which are getting better and better, will increasingly stream in smart ways to our healthcare providers and systems.

“And we can use that data to do something as simple or as complex as public health. Already today, a smartwatch can tell us when someone has COVID-19, even when they’re asymptomatic. 

Enabling healthcare providers to access data collected via smart devices will provide them with crucial digital biomarkers, which can then help to optimize wellness and disease prevention, whether through doing earlier diagnostics or even diagnosing disease early, Kraft explains. 

“It might be your Apple Watch or your sleep data showing that while your resting heart rate is normally 55, it’s risen to 70 over the last two weeks, and maybe something is going on cardiovascularly, maybe you’re at risk of a heart attack or a stroke. You’ll be able to get that sort of early proactive information and connect that with your healthcare system," he said.

“So the future of the physical exam isn’t showing up at your doctor’s office once a year and explaining how you’ve been doing, but you can actually do an analysis of all your data from the last week, month, or even year.”

Making healthcare accessible

Asked about whether or not the future of healthcare, with all its data collection and synchronized smart devices, will be more or less accessible to people than it currently is, Kraft told the Post that there is a real opportunity to lower currently existing health disparities across the globe.

He thinks that in the big picture, "the real opportunity here is to lower the disparities and [create] much better health equity around the planet. Already now, the bottom billion of the poorest people on the planet all have at least a basic phone with SMS capabilities, and pretty soon almost everyone will have the equivalent of at least a basic smartphone. So I think it will improve access."

Because we practice sick care, many people wait until they get super sick, when it's expensive and can be deadly. 

“We can be much more proactive, we can start to use automated chatbots for triage, where it can ask you questions about your symptoms…and it can help you guide to care and that might then bring you to a telemedicine visit or to the emergency room as appropriate," Kraft said. "So I think it can lower costs and can provide access and equity.”

When it comes to providing accessible care and treatment, the physician-scientist describes the impact that these new technologies can have on rural communities, where quality healthcare can be hard to access.

One such item Kraft mentions is the personal EKG device developed by AliveCor. The KardiaMobile Card device can fit into a wallet or the back of a phone case and allows a person to perform a remote EKG, with all the data collected being transmitted to a remote medical professional in real-time.

“So now, in a rural clinic, they can do a much better job of doing diagnostics and guided care,” he explains, highlighting its uses.

“So bottom line," Kraft said in conclusion, "I think these technologies have a huge, huge opportunity to bring better health around the planet, including for public health.”