For a long time, we had no clue. We didn’t know about germs or viruses. We thought that ulcers were caused by pastrami sandwiches. We went to the barber for bloodletting and didn’t understand genes or evolution.
Technology in medicine, the science of understanding and intervening, has made huge leaps. There are more to come, but most of what ails us is very well understood.
As we’ve developed more of an understanding of technology, we’ve also dramatically increased the number of resources we put into healthcare. Particularly in parts of the privileged world, but also worldwide, we spend more on clean water, pharmaceuticals, surgery etc. than we ever did before.
The real problem of healthcare in this moment is information. We hamstring well-meaning healthcare professionals, burdening them with forms and scans and processes simply because their institutions don’t have a better way to collect and share information. We suffer from cranks, trolls and charlatans because we don’t have a systemic, trusted way to share what we already know about how our health works. And all of us make damaging lifestyle choices that erode the world’s health far more than any disease.
Information about technology and resources is the key to using the tools we already have. Who needs help, when they need help and what help they need–we’re doing a lousy job of this.
In one sense, the information problem is good news. Because we keep getting better at information. In two decades, we went from a visit to the library to Google. We have access to more science, more location and historical data and more behavior insight in the last few years than in all of recorded history before that.
Humans are always going to be fearful and superstitious when it comes to our health. We’ll probably continue to fall into bad habits and make panicked choices. The answer might not be a scientific breakthrough or more money spent on a new device. It might simply be allowing skilled practitioners to bring their care and insight to the right people in the right moment.