by JEFF GOLDSMITH (7)
My career as a “futurist” began in 1986, in response to a request from the Editor of the late Hospitals magazine to write an essay on the US Health System in 2036. You can find that essay here.) Some of the 33 year old forecasts included:
- The patients of the 21st century will be connected to their physicians or hospitals by webs of telemetry similar to those used in cellular communications; perhaps these communication webs will be coordinated or monitored by computer systems that could trigger responses in advance of crises.
- “Intelligent” clinical information systems will become the hospital’s operating core. . . These systems will monitor patient conditions on a real-time basis, tracking physiological signs and incorporating test results, comparing patient responses against profiles gleaned from vast clinical data bases, and assisting the patient care team in evaluating and planning care
Unfortunately, I also talked about “writeable laser disks” and forecast that “by the early 21st century, government financing may be a distant third as a source of U.S. health funds, behind (in order) individual patients and corporate employers.” You can’t win them all!
In this essay, I was following in the footsteps of corporate seers such as Alvin Tofler (Future Shock, 1972) and John Naisbitt (MegaTrends, 1982) who captivated managements and boards with bold and optimistic forecasts of a changing world. Their forecasts were bold but vague, leading some wags to suggest that the three keys to successful futurism were: be optimistic; never make specific numeric forecasts and never give a date by which your forecast is supposed to come true. I violated all three of these rules in my 1986 article.
“The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be”
In the ensuing 33 years, we’ve seen a ton of changes in US healthcare, but often not the ones we futurists forecast. The biggest change has been the relentless and unchecked rise in expense, causing fiscal indigestion for state and national governments and rendering care for tens of millions of Americans into a luxury good.