Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Perfect Storm: Digital Natives, Personalized Medicine, and Baby Boomers

Loosely substantiated prediction: The technological expectations and facility of digital natives and the self-absorbed health demands of the geriatric baby boomers will meet at a time when today’s breakthroughs in personalized medicine have sufficiently matured to usher changes in healthcare that can only be described as revolutionary in the fullest sense of the word.

The concept of digital natives— (young) people who have spent their whole lives immersed in digital technology with no baseline reference to a world of books, newspapers, and video stores— was coined by Marc Prensky in his work Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.

Digital natives are in middle school. Boomers are turning 65 this year. Social media, health apps, direct-to-consumer genomics, and many other elements of personalized medicine are getting their feet wet in actual medical practice. These digital natives will start becoming healthcare professionals (as well as professionals in supporting fields like computer science and… everything) in about 10 years. Boomers will be turning 75 and presenting unprecedented numbers of chronic care complaints. These ten years will give personalized medicine more than enough time to find its sea legs.

It’s going to be hard to get and stay sick in the 2020’s.

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