The Doctor exhibited 1891 by Sir Luke Fildes 1843-1927

Title: The Doctor
Artist: Sir Luke Fildes
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Tate Britain
Time: 1891
Dimensions: 1664 x 2419 mm

I can’t remember where it was – perhaps waiting for yet another flight to board at yet another anonymous airport in Europe- when I received a call from Ed Rudd, our chairman. He was very excited about the concept Uberisation of our modern economy, he kept on talking how most of the business plans he receives (Ed is a keen investor among other things) try to Uberise their market. The Uberisation of everything, he said “To Uberise, to replace the middleman is the theme of our times.”

Last week I was discussing with Soeren the new version of our system (soon to be released), and all of a sudden my discussion with Ed sounded very familiar. Our new version once more pushes the boundaries of innovation in our market, the core difference being that we now offer a system that positions the patient at the centre of the clinical workflow. We do that by enabling multi-directional communications amongst the care-givers in a true patient centric model. Effectively, by doing that we replace the middleman, and interesting enough I believe we make the first step to Uberise Radiology.

For those living in the last two years on a different planet, I think I should explain what Uber is.

Like the gigantic health systems (NHS and the likes), the taxi business model was inefficient, not mobile, and as any passenger using a minicab in London on a Saturday night can testify, often very unpleasant.  It was a model built around the needs of taxi drivers and their companies, rather than me and you, the needs of the guys paying for their services.  Mobile technology and the internet has existed for over a decade, but the taxi industry has simply refused to embrace it, holding on to its old ways. Enter Uber, a Silicon Valley startup.  It uses a mobile platform.  It is GPS-enabled.  It allows you and me, the passenger to rate the driver.  It’s paperless.  It’s efficient. It reduces the cost of service. And while Uber has faced regulatory pushback in almost every country launched, its innovation has seriously disrupted the existing models and it has been handsomely rewarded.  Regulation typically drafts behind, not ahead, of innovation (Brussels please take notice!).

Today we are seeing a major shift in healthcare globally, mainly brought by cultural and socio-economic forces.  The population is ageing and chronic conditions requiring management during patients’ daily lives are on the rise. Alongside these issues, we are seeing widespread connectivity emerge across all economic classes.  Portio Research estimates some 6.9 billion cell phones are currently in use worldwide. That’s up from 2 billion in 2005, according to Wireless Intelligence. My mother, for example with no prior experience in computers, bought a tablet 2 years ago and within a month not only did she manage to skype her grandchildren but also to send her MRI scans to a consultant in the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion.

Technology has set all of this change in motion. We are already seeing more empowered patients. In our company we call those patients the “super patients”, the ones who are very close to Dr.Google.  People want information. They want to make their own diagnosis.   They want to research their doctors.  They want to find ways to get to be 100 years old and still enjoy quality of life. They want to have instant access to clinical skills regardless where they are.

I imagine a world in the next 30 years that looks like this:  Patients receive personal care around the clock.  Virtual coaches and doctors work with patients to optimize day-to-day preventative care.  Everyone has their own virtual care team that lives with them in augmented reality.  Meanwhile, primary care physicians (real humans) are assigned to a pool of patients who they monitor remotely, supported by a team of real human specialists. But much of the “personal” connection will be done through virtual humans (maybe there is a place for IBM’s Watson AI system in healthcare after all, you clearly need the machines to help us with the deluge of clinical information overload, the clinical information obesity).

And in this brave new world, medical Imaging will be asked to play a major role. I think it will be the catalyst driving the next evolutionary step in healthcare. Why? Because Medical Imaging is the only way to present a pretty accurate picture of the anatomy and pathology of a person remotely, to a doctor miles away.

Today doctors say, “Use this medication”  or, “Use this pump; it’ll save your life,” and they assume that patients will readily adopt these products. But what we see happening is that as new products are created for the modern patient, companies will have to shift their focus toward how these products fit into the larger context of people’s lives. Understanding and meeting patients’ needs and desires will become a bigger differentiator, and more crucial to adoption than ever before. And technology and the internet will be the vehicle for this transformation.

It all starts now.  Healthcare must shift its focus toward the patient.  There is no other way. Healthcare services should put the patient’s needs first and foremost. This is what Biotronics3d, our company is doing with our new product. Just as Uber has demonstrated with putting the passenger first, ignoring the patient will be fatal for health solutions companies: they will be the new taxi drivers, baffled by how the world has passed them by.

At Biotronics3D we are building the next Uber-like disruption in the Medical Imaging service.

And in this new framework the Radiologist will evolve to a new role where the patient is in the centre of the workflow.

I think I ought to add a postscript to this blog. There are many modern thinkers, as Andrew Keen in his book “The internet is not the answer” is very keen to emphasise. He claims that drawing on the formidable example of Uber, billions could be made by destroying taxi unions, to cite just one example. Another example is Dr Jay Parkinson, who on Sep 2007 launched probably first Uber-like medical services, using the internet to connect directly patients with doctors. His venture sadly lasted only 6 months and argues that Uber-like business models in Healthcare are doing a massive disservice to our system, and that we all should focus more on doctors’ efficiencies.

I would passionately disagree.

And although I think we should always listen to this new generation of naysayers, the post 2000 internet has provided the catalyst for business growth, by putting conventional business models on steroids, and by accelerating the evolution of everything. An exponential acceleration… Just consider that: when a kid with a laptop working from a beach in Mexico could invent Instagram, a photo-sharing app, and singlehanded bring Kodak, the old giant of photography, to bankruptcy, it is obvious that organisations and companies that fail to understand and adopt the new business models will have the same future. And “Uberise everything” is the new kid in the block, dinosaurs who fail to understand and evolve fast, will die regardless their size.