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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

eHealth Medical Fiction - "Cell" by Robin Cook

I just finished a page turner by Robin Cook called "Cell". I knew from the beginning that it was an eHealth type of medical fiction. It features a smartphone app called iDoc that promises almost to take over the role of the personal physician. I suspected while reading the influence by Eric Topol, who must be one of the greatest champions for spearheading the medical smartphone revolution.

I was not too surprised to find that Robin Cook does acknowledge Topol at the end of the book. For a while I was concurrently reading Topols' "The Patient Will See You Now" and "Cell".  Robin Cook wrote "Cell" in 2014 and he credited Topols' "The Creative Destruction of Medicine".  Reading the medical fiction is  just a diversion. If you really want to learn about how the smartphone will revolutionize medicine - read Topol.

Medicare should be a major department for all Americans, just like Education and Defense. The author appears to argue like this in the book as he alludes often to the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare. The villain is a Health Insurance Company bent on making billions with the miracle app. The iDoc app is wonderful as the algorithms on the smartphone help to prevent illness and conditions. Health advice is immediate and always accessible.

Unfortunately, the app takes a turn for the worse and the "heuristics" start killing off patients in the alpha testing.  That involves what I think is the only science fiction element in the story - a nano-chip implanted in diabetes patients that is remote controlled by wireless radio signals releasing doses of insulin.  In real life the FDA has approved an "artificial pancreas" of sorts - a network of devices - that automagically monitors and controls blood sugar levels - it just doesn't work on the nano scale.

Just saw over at the Geek Doctor blogspot there is a guest blog by Seth Berkowitz, MD about  Apple’s CareKit and ResearchKit frameworks and the HealthKit API being used at BIDMC. Engaging patients in their health like that is a step towards a kind of iDoc.