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Perspect Biol Med. 2018;61(1):147-155. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2018.0033.

The Futurist and Historian Will See You Now.


Eric Topol's The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands (2015) depicts a medical future in which the patient-doctor relationship is upended in the context of easily acquired and shared big data and the increasing computing power necessary to analyze such data. A chief obstacle to this future, in Topol's rendering, is the entrenched paternalism of the medical profession. But Topol's thought-provoking assessment misses other key potential obstacles to the rational and equitable implementation of this (or any) medical future and would benefit from a more nuanced telling of the history of attempts to empower patients in this country. Nancy Tomes's Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers (2016) traces the long history of patient consumerism in America. She points out that the history of attempts to inform and empower patients has often been characterized by the conflation of advertising with information, the inequitable distribution of access to information and care, and the prioritization of commercial over medical utility in the implementation of care. These remain critical obstacles to an ideal medical future, Topol's or otherwise.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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