Information technology will drive innovation in healthcare, Kurzweil surmises


When attendees at the Ninth Annual Independent Pharmacy Business Growth Conference in Orlando, Fla. heard famed innovator Ray Kurzweil speak, they quickly realized Kurzweil is a man decades ahead of his time.

Kurzweil, an American author, inventor, and futurist who has been described as “the restless genius” by The Wall Street Journal, and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes, shared his predictions and insights on the evolution of the healthcare industry and how he believes it will change in the future. His speech also was delivered via a live webcast.

"Now that health and medicine, biology, is an information technology, it's going to progress not linearly, which is how it progressed before, but it's going to progress exponentially," Kurzweil said. "That means these technologies are going to double every year."

During his discussion, he explained that health and medicine should now be looked at as technologies, and pharmacists and healthcare providers need to be ready for the progression of technology in their fields.

A major healthcare "technology" or "software" that will gain usefulness in the future is the alteration and use of stem cells to advance medicine and treatment, he said.

"We are now treating biology as the information process that it really is, and we have the means to reprogram this outdated software," he said of DNA and stem cell research. " This is really going to revolutionize health and medicine within a decade, certainly within two (decades)."

Kurzweil said he thought with the advancement of stem cells and DNA alterations, in the future, all major diseases will eventually be wiped out. In 15 years, more than one year will be added to life expectancy each year, he added.

When it comes to drug treatments, combining medications could be the most effective, he said.

"Metformin is a drug that destroys cancer stem cells. With any one drug, if it's attacking a pathogen, the pathogen will evolve around it. We need a cocktail of drugs," he said.

Kurzweil said in the coming years, there will me more a shift in the pharmacy industry to compounding drugs for each patient.

"It's not just going to be giving out pills of a uniform kind," he said. "It's going to be using technology to actually create genetically customized medications for individuals."

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