About Future of You

Today, KQED Science launches a new, multimedia website we’re calling “Future of You.” 

We will explore, on a daily basis, how emerging technologies are revolutionizing medicine and how an explosion of information is changing the way we manage our health.

Health care, a $3 trillion industry hardly known for innovation, is finally getting a digital makeover, as a booming new digital health industry aims to give patients more power to track, understand and improve their lives.

The technological disruption of health care, similar to the way Amazon changed publishing and iTunes changed the music industry, is already having profound effects on everything from health care costs to privacy to medical research. Think tens of thousands of people quickly and cheaply taking heart EKGs on their smart phones as part of a study of heart disease, rather than having to all go into a hospital for the same test. It’s already happening, at a Bay Area university.

In the months ahead, we will chronicle the unfolding stories of the pioneers, patients, consumers, caretakers, entrepreneurs, thinkers, experimenters and medical professionals navigating a digital health revolution, much of which is happening right here in Silicon Valley and across the Bay Area.

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This fast-growing movement has so many dimensions:  advances in genetics, cloud computing, crowd sourcing, wireless connectivity, do-it-yourself medical tests and low-cost lab tests, as well as new consumer electronics tools, such as wearable sensors, and even ingestible sensors that are swallowed like a pill and track changes in your body. A Bay Area company is making those now.

You can expect a wide range of stories that include topics such as Apple's plans to open its iPhone software for medical research; how retail giants like Walmart are going into health care to offer lower cost alternatives to the traditional insurance model; what’s behind President Obama’s new “Precision Medicine Initiative,” and how digital health startups are trying to fix a costly, inefficient medical industry.

Among such companies are San Francisco based Iodine, which built a crowd-sourcing site for drug reviews and side effects; Zenefits, a fast-growing startup trying to remake health insurance and Chrono Therapeutics, a company that is developing a wearable device to help people quit smoking by delivering small doses of nicotine, with a smartphone app that measures the amounts and provides encouraging daily feedback.

More than $4 billion has been poured into the digital health sector in recent years. But despite growing popularity, the industry faces challenges. Technology is outpacing the government’s ability to regulate it. There’s the risk of another digital divide. Doctors can’t always interpret vast amounts of consumer-gathered data. And the ability to guarantee that the data is reliable, easily accessible and protected is critical.

Sponsored

Christina Farr, an award-winning San Francisco journalist who has covered Silicon Valley and digital health issues for Reuters, VentureBeat and other companies, will be navigating us through these changes, supported by the multimedia team of nearly 20 journalists who make up the ground-breaking KQED Science department. We will hear from contributors, thought leaders and policy makers. And we also hope to hear from you, about your thoughts and concerns of the technological shifts happening in medicine and health care.  Our first stories, explore the promises and failures of electronic medical records.

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