Steve Jobs: Healthcare Revolutionary?

August 29, 2011

He killed the audio CD but resurrected the music industry.

Forever changed the way we look at pictures and videos of your summer vacation or watch summer blockbusters.

Turned your hand-held into a portal to the world wide web.

Historians will long debate the role Steve Jobs and his company played shifting paradigms in all sectors of our economy – from media to manufacturing to the practice of medicine.

Really? The practice of medicine?

Has Jobs and his company really changed the art of practicing medicine as they have changed most other corners of our lives?

And if so, how significantly? As much as – say Vesalius, Hooke, Hood or other giants in the field?

A radical supposition perhaps. But there is no denying the impact of the technologies adopted as a result of his touch.

Medical practitioners these days use mobile/connected devices to learn, stream, take continuing medical education, monitor patients in real time, prescribe, ensure compliance, download and consume digital media, and perhaps most importantly, collaborate and communicate more robustly.

Why?  Well, largely, because there’s an app for that.

Heightening the level and rate of electronic exchange does not necessarily mean change for the better in regards to patient care. It is still unclear whether individual patients will enjoy improved diagnosis and treatment as the gradual shift in medical practitioner from clinician to technician evolves (or devolves, as some believe).

Better patient care is what it is all about… isn’t it?

That we are all wirelessly wired in more unforeseen ways everyday is not all due to Jobs and his company. Not by a long shot. And thousands of companies big and small are breaking new ground in the delivery of healthcare everyday. Apparently, healthcare is a thriving, growing market!

One example – More patient questions are asked and answered on Google everyday than by all the healthcare workers in the world, according to Roni Zeiger, MD – chief health strategist for Google.

Another – patient communities and crowd sourcing solutions to medical conundrums have being embraced by mainstream researchers and institutions.

And I am sure those of you who visit doctors have noticed prescriptions never touching your hands, and doctors talking into their tablets or laptops as they conduct your annual physical.

Medical practice is changing.

Which brings me back to Apple and its founder’s drive for a seamless user experience.

Jobs’ abilities, his unique vision, decision making ability, consumer usability perspective, sense of design, strength of conviction, ability to assemble a great staff, and relentlessness propelled him and his firm – coincidentally or intentionally bearing the same name as the forbidden fruit and as well as Beatle’s record label – to an exalted folkloresque place in corporate America. He wouldn’t be admired if his products didn’t deliver on their aspirational promises.

By the way, I think I forgot communicate in that list above. Jobs had a unique ability to communicate his vision  as well.

I say this not personally owning any Apple products. I am not now and have never been a fan-boy of either Jobs or his company.

I admire beautiful design and best in class features and functionality. If I get most of the same for half the price – that is generally the way I go. You are not likely to find me sitting outside on the sidewalk waiting for the latest release at midnight.

But these are my biases.  Clearly there are enough Apple-ites to spur entire Apple store knock-offs in China, and propel the company to #1 on the Market Capitalization Charts – briefly unseating Exxon as the world’s most valued company – worth more than the top 32 banks in the EuroZone!

Not bad for a business started in a garage. For a guy fired from his own start-up.

I do not know whether Jobs will be seen as a healthcare revolutionary.

But I do wish for him – that new collaborative techniques enabled by technology his company helps mainstream will sustain his energy and creativity as he transitions to the next phase of his life.

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