The following post appeared in the Bloomington Herald Times:

 

New Careers in Health Care

Lynn Coyne, President and CEO, Bloomington Economic Development Corporation

Many people are using wearable devices to track their fitness and weight goals.  These little technological wonders can sense movement and transmit data for analysis and storage for future use.  Every day more and more data is being generated by these devices and whether or not the data will ever be useful, it is being stored somewhere.

These devices also give us a hint of what the future holds in terms of our medical care.  For some time now, many patients have been wearing a variety of devices that monitor important functions such as heart activity and blood composition.  These devices generate large volumes of data on a continuous basis that give medical providers important insights into the patient’s condition in ways that were not possible a short time ago.

We can imagine that the day will come when we will be wearing devices that monitor every important function of our bodies and sends that data to the internet and on to a data storage facility for analysis.  Those of us who have been used to having a one-on-one relationship with our physician implicitly believe that somehow our physician will be watching over our data and alert us if they see something wrong.  That is just not possible.  More likely, a software program will analyze the data and if something is out of line, the software will send a notice.  But the question is who gets the notice?  Busy physicians simply don’t have the time to be monitoring the data from all their patients on a current basis.  They will need intermediaries to screen the reports, analyze the results and decide what is appropriate to call to their attention.

How the data is used will also depend on the age of the patient population.  Baby boomers are likely to rely on their personal physician to interpret results.  Millennials may be more likely to want to interpret the results on their own through web-based research and consultation as they are less likely to have a personal physician.

All of this presents opportunities for career paths and research that will develop in the future.  Health information technology areas such as “health informatics” and “bioinformatics” are currently areas of study that are likely to grow.  Will there be “digital nurses” in the future who sit in front of monitors and evaluate our medical condition and needs?  If so they will need to be trained both in nursing and in informatics and this may lead to entirely new curricula.  Our region is ideally positioned to train for these careers and careers that we have yet to imagine in health information technology.  The new regional academic health center and Indiana University’s new health education facility will be at the forefront of this area.  They have the potential to make Bloomington and Monroe County the leader in modern healthcare careers that will help sustain our economy.