Vision of a healthier future: drugs beamed into our bodies

The health service of the future will see drugs teleported into patients’ bodies, organs grown from DNA and most medical care delivered outside of hospitals, a leading academic at a Scottish university will say.

In a lecture tonight at Edinburgh Napier University, professor of e-health Christoph Thuemmler will outline what healthcare could look like in the UK and Europe by 2030.

This will include great advances in the treatments offered, but also people having to accept that they may have to contribute more to the cost of their care and radical changes in the NHS.

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Speaking ahead of his speech, Future Networked Care, Prof Thuemmler said technology was being held back because of financial constraints. But, he said, internationally it was acknowledged that technology was not the problem.

“We have a lot of technologies, both new and already matured technologies, that are developed that we are not even touching,” he said. “From a technological point of view, there is not so much of a challenge”. But, he said, what would actually happen would be down to financial constraints.

Healthcare will become a kind of service industry. Patients will turn into customers, chief executives, accountants. And the driving force will not be the technology, it will be people who are seeking excellence and value for their money, because people will have to pay more for their healthcare.”

On the issue of teleporting drugs inside patients, Prof Thuemmler said scientists were already able to transport tiny particles across distances.

“The question is when will we be reaching the point that we can actually do experiments with animals or move into some kind of physiological structures,” he said.

“The underlying technology is already there. The problem is more that these technologies are extremely expensive.”

Prof Thuemmler the same was true with personalised medicine, which could one day also include growing organs from patient’s DNA. “We will see personalised drugs and medication that will look at your individual genetic code, so you will get the most effective medication,” he said. “These are technologies that the pharmaceutical industry has in the pipeline.

“The reason they are not coming up is that there is not enough money around, and as long as healthcare is controlled by governments and legislation, we will not see much of a movement because there is too much concern from the pharmaceutical companies that they might not get return on their investment.”

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Prof Thuemmler said the future would also see more use of the internet to provide services such as GP consultations, with less care delivered in hospitals. Politicians may need to withdraw from healthcare to some extent, allowing private companies to provide more services.

“You just have to do the maths. This does not calculate anymore. People in the future will be after excellence,” he said. “You can see the trend already, for example in alternative medicine. You have to pay for that yourself. Physiotherapy and psychotherapy is rationed – if you want that you have to pay for these things already.”