The Future of Medicine Starts Here

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My 88-year-old mother is beginning the New Year with a new hip (she fell and broke the old one for Thanksgiving) and two weeks later had a stroke (just to make the rehab more challenging). The hospitals were great – rapid, efficient, team based with smooth hand offs and family accommodations most of the time. Still, she got post-operative delirium, including a persistent delusion that she was standing sideways. Drugs were reduced and soft restraints introduced. It persisted and she still couldn’t sleep, which worsened her already high anxiety. The nurses were very kind and responsive to her frequent calls. 

On the fourth day all the family came in – four children, nine grandchildren, in-laws and few virtual people – 25 people in all. We sang, told stories, prayed and then did a collective laying-on-of-hand ceremony. That night she slept deeply all through night (the first since her fall) and in the morning all her delusions were gone for good. She looked 100% better. The doctor leading the hospital team in the morning was pleased. “Great spontaneous remission,” he said. “She can go home today then.”

If he only knew what really happened. High tech – yes, the new hip is great. Low tech – yes, but not provided by the hospital.

You may have seen an inspiring video in which Dr. Daniel Kraft discusses how high tech advancements will allow for the eradication of vision impairment, curing the majority of cancers, and giving movement back to the paralyzed all within 50 years.

For those coping with these issues, they will be life changing, even miraculous. But we will still need healing, because high tech is not enough. What will transform the health of every person will be another change he mentions:

“The future of health and medicine is not just about high tech drugs and interventions and devices but being more attuned to your own rhythm and diet and exercise and behavioral elements.”

For some this is empowering because, as Dr. Kraft noted, it’s a partnership between the patient and their health support team. It requires understanding the mind, body and spirit’s healing potential, emphasizing it and making the most of that inner power.

For others this focus on self-care might be a harder pill to swallow because it requires a shift in responsibility. You become just as important if not more so than your medical team. The food you eat, activity you incorporate into your day, and stress management skills (like meditation and spiritual practices), the social connections you maintain, become just as important as the pills you take. The doctor and his team could not have provided my mother with the healing love that turned her post-operative delusions around and set her on the road to faster recovery.

But, as my mother’s case illustrates, this doesn’t have to be the future, this is the present. We can already “start to cure the well before they get sick” as Dr. Kraft envisions.

To see how, I turn to Bertalan Mesko’s book from earlier this year, which presents a vision of the future of medicine. (A quick overview is available here)

His list explores strategies for the future that resonated with me because so much of what he covers is integrated into Samueli Institute’s mission and everyday work.

Here are just a few of the ways Samueli Institute is bringing “The Future of Medicine” that much closer. 

Keep one eye on the future, but keep the other on the present by making changes TODAY that will improve your tomorrow. The future of my 88-year-old mother (and maybe yours) relies on this.