As public consciousness and knowledge about health issues grows, thanks to the internet and other media, I predict that:
1) Hospitals will recede into a role of acute and catastrophic care ONLY, dropping the charade of providing health, which they do NOT.
2) Doctors and other health professionals will begin to see themselves as providers of acute and catastrophic care, also. They will stop providing day to day care, such as treating high blood pressure, cholesterol, breast exams, and other preventive maintenance.
3) Instead, preventive care will be self-provided . The public will have acquired sufficient savvy and know-how to manage issues like blood pressure themselves. They will need the assistance of helpful information resources, web-based for the most part. Much preventive care can, in fact, be algorithm-driven, just like following a simple recipe.
All the worries about runaway health care costs will be much reduced, since excessive testing driven by liability worries will disappear, repeated office visits for day-to-day issues will go away. Yes, you will need a doctor and hospital for a broken leg, car accident, unexpected cancer, or non-compliance or neglect of prevention.
But osteoporosis, high blood pressure, nutrition, weight loss, hormone management, cholesterol issues, minor complaints will all be managed by people themselves with the assistance of web-based knowledge systems.
I already sense this sort of phenomeonon developing, though in its infancy, in venues like the Track Your Plaque Forum and other health portals, places where the information being discussed exceeds the quality of information you can obtain from your doctor. Over and over again, for instance, the sophistication and knowledge demonstrated by our Track Your Plaque Forum discussions shows that the public is capable of far more understanding of health issues than many previously believed. Most of our members could carry on a credible conversation with trained lipid experts. The knowledge base of our members exceeds that of 98% of most of my colleagues when it comes to heart scans, lipoproteins, and nutrition.
I am in awe of Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia. Five 20- and 30-somethings have created a knowledge base that has now eclipsed Encyclopedia Britannica in size and scope, with equivalent accuracy, and relatively little cost. I'd like to see the same phenomenon occur in health care information, helping to usurp the current paternalistic "I'll tell you what to do" model.