IdeaLab: The Driverless Clinic
The Driverless Clinic
Each team was given a pre-determined persona to focus our efforts. Our persona is Peter, a 68-year-old auto assembly plant retiree who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. Peter is a widower, has children living in a different city, and a few close to a few friends locally. Even though Peter is relatively healthy and active, he has a family history of prostate cancer and high blood pressure. Peter avoids going to the doctor unless strictly necessary: the last time he did so was for a crown replacement three years ago. Peter is also frugal when it comes to spending on technology. All of this, coupled with his aversion to doctor visits, makes him a particularly challenging subject for an exercise that focuses on the role of artificial intelligence in healthcare.
Peter's care scenario starts when his biosensor identifies abnormal levels of PSA in his blood, notifies Peter and his caregiver, and gives Peter a series of options for scheduling an appointment. Our scenario assumes that Peter’s wearable has already detected an abnormality in either his urination pattern or PSA levels, and the AI has determined that further testing is needed to verify whether cancerous cells are present.
Peter's Timeline: The team mapped out a 20-year timeline, where Peter is 59 years old in 2016. This allowed us to assess technological and societal drivers that occurred during the first part of the timeline and then predict what’s expect for the latter part.
Peter's Touchpoints: Given the connected and wellness-focused environment we envision for 2025, the team determined that most of Peter’s care for minor ailments would occur in his home via a remote connection to his provider, whether by wearable or embedded devices. More pressing symptoms, such as a twisted ankle or a high fever, would be addressed at a retail clinic such as CVS. Dr. Robert Wachter, author of “The Digital Doctor,” predicts that if Peter had a problem that would today send him to an acute care unit, in the future he may be able to stay home and be monitored remotely by his care team. The only reason Peter would have to visit a physical healthcare facility in 2025 will be if he needs emergency care (such as trauma), highly specialized diagnostics that needed to be guided by technicians, highly specialized surgeries, or intensive treatment for diseases such as cancer.
In our imagined 2025, a visit to the local wellness center to get a biopsy is not much different than meeting friends at the local community center. Peter walks up to a bar, gets a drink and a small capsule with an ingestible diagnostic sensor in it, and can enjoy a range of activities at the center while the biopsy is taking place. All the medical aspects of the visit are invisible to Peter. Information is wirelessly transferred from his smartphone and wearable to the AI, and doctors and physicians monitor the AI feed behind the scenes.
The team imagined a wellness center consisting of three zones: Lifestyle, Wellness, and Provider/Staff Support. The Lifestyle zone is a high activity area that incorporates entertainment and retail amenities to encourage camaraderie. We integrated the principles of Danish ‘Hygge’ design—“the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things”—into what we are referring to as the Wellness zone, a lower activity area. Lastly, the Provider/Staff area is practically invisible to the rest of the center, although there is a physical connection to the Wellness zone for functions that overlap.
After researching technological, policy, industry and societal trends, our team found that the common thread among the key findings is that less space will be needed for examination, procedures and administrative tasks, and more space will be focused on human interactions and wellness activities. They also recognized that to capture patients and motivate them to stay well, the nature of health facilities needs to change from places where people have to go to places where people want to go. Although our artificial intelligence clinic is 'driverless,' with much more automated medical functions disappearing into the background, we believe the future of medical care is still very much a humanistic endeavor.