Consider first the title of the book itself. In the not-so-distant future patients will have greater power over the relationship they have with health care providers. Slowly, the grip of medical paternalism will give way under the pressure of new low-cost technology. With so many other options for accessing health information and care, patients will benefit. And, many doctors will lose patients. Patients will have more choices and will demand that when they see their physician the experience be worth their time. For those physicians who aren't, the patient will certainly not see them.
If the patient gains more control over when and under what circumstances they will choose to see a doctor, that means only the best doctors will prosper. Only those willing to listen to their patients, really help them, address the root causes of their problems, and work to improve their overall health as opposed to simply managing symptoms.
To use Seth Godin's word, the physicians who will thrive in this environment will need to be "remarkable." Many physicians are not. What will happen to them? They will, and should be, disrupted right out of practice. So much the better for their patients.
As Topol points out in the book, we now have the technology to perform many parts of the routine physical via a patient's smartphone. The movement towards greater patient control will also include a shift from health care providers controlling patient data to patients taking ownership of their data. The patient will be able to monitor their own health stats, control their own data, test results, and other important information. Of course, that will mean more patient responsibility as well.
Needless to say, many health care providers will fight these changes because they ultimately mean the end of paternalism and many lucrative careers. And, as in other industries which are being disrupted like education, many will remain in denial about the coming changes in health care. Others will be slow to see the trend and get out in front of it. That will mean a lot of needless disruption to patients as practices scramble to keep up or stay afloat.
I would love to see those in the health care industry working to move these changes forward and adapt to them in ways that will benefit patients. Stop spending your time defending the status quo and start asking what you can do to improve patient care and patient health. Take the initiative to offer patients control over the medical records and test results. Find ways to work around needless bureaucratic impediments that will ultimately be overcome and streamline the patient experience.
There will always be a need for patients to see physicians in person at least for some health care needs. So, health care providers need to work to make these visits remarkable. Start with the presumption that you owe the patient their FULL visit time. Listen and find ways to document without sacrificing this listening time. Commit to seeing every patient, on time, every time. You think that can't be done? Ask why you think this and make the changes necessary to make this happen. Patients used to have to put up with this. Not for much longer. The patient will see you now, but only if you merit being seen. With so many other options available for their health care you will only be chosen if you do what most are unwilling to do. Be available. Be a resource for patient health. Be a partner in the patient's overall goal of good health. Do more than a smartphone app can do otherwise you will be replaced by that app.