With a fast-paced speech, Daniel Kraft is a specialist in exponential medicine and Faculty Chair for Medicine at Singularity University, a very different education center from the majority of schools in the world. The university aims to prepare leaders of the biggest organizations in the world for the future. And today, Kraft says that the synonym of the future is technology.
Kraft graduated from medical school at Stanford and biochemistry at Brown, with a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital & Boston Children’s Hospital. More recently, he founded Bioniq Health, focused on customized medicine. Based on this experience, Kraft presented a lecture at the official inauguration of Plenae, in São Paulo, in May, connecting reality, future perspectives and health technology.
“Technology is advancing at an incredible speed. We have the opportunity to improve health,” he said at the beginning of his speech. According to him, there’s a bunch of highly significant discoveries, but in different areas of medicine, which need to be connected. “In order for everyone to take full advantage of this advancement, we still need to connect strategic points of progress.”
“For example, I’m a pediatrician and hematologist. When I go to Stanford or Massachusetts hospital, it looks like I’m in the future. We input rather than hand write. At the same time, in the reception area, fax machines are still used and patients need to wait hours to speak with doctors.”
Today, people who are treated for a chronic diseases posses an intermittent record of their data. They are submitted to many exams constantly. The entire information is seldom passed on to doctors. What does this mean? According to Kraft, we still have reactive medicine and health insurance based on reimbursement. We wait for people to get sick, have a stroke, for example in order to then treat them. “We need to prevent and optimize healthcare. It’s about time we practiced evidence-based medicine.”
Today, there are apps for patients to choose the drug with the best price and to evaluate hospitals and physicians. The iPhone, for example, has already become a medical device. A computer already fits inside a watch and can provide a diagnostic. In our daily lives, the “uberization” of things is already a reality. “Uber connected drivers directly with potential passengers. Soon, there will be an app to connect doctors with patients, drugstores and hospitals.” Just like many things reach people through apps, the same process will occur with healthcare. “We already have drones that take medication to inhospitable or unreachable locations. We need to connect the dots to bring this technology to healthcare.”
“10 years ago, Nokia was the leading manufacturer of cell phones. Today, Apple dominates. Imagine what can happen in 10 years,” says Kraft, pointing out that most of us think linearly, but we need to think exponentially.
“We don’t want to break paradigms. Singularity University is not a conventional university. We gather intelligent people to understand technology and discover how to use it to solve problems like poverty, healthcare and many other issues. I started the exponential medicine program and so far we have 50 Brazilians on the team. The difficulty is not in new ideas, but rather escaping old ones.”
It is known that excessive use of alcohol and stress can lead to diseases. So, Kraft makes the following suggestion: “How about if we begin measuring our cardiorespiratory behavior with sensors placed on our chest, for example. It is possible through portable apps to measure weight, muscle mass, body format and glycemia – there are contact lenses that check these items in the blood for example.”
And he continues giving other routine examples. “Our posture is poor when speaking on the phone, which could be resolved if there were a device to place in people’s backs and improve their health. Measuring the numbers of steps I take per day and the quality of my sleep is also possible.” According to him, Apple has already bought companies that produce sensors that can be placed under the mattress.
Check breath quality. A breathalyzer to detect diseases. Sensors to measure tremors, calories and even diaper wetness. Airbags to prevent old people from falling. Cameras that measure the respiratory rate of babies would be a peace of mind for mothers. “It’s possible to think about all this, but nobody wants to use 10 different apps. It’s necessary to interconnect everything,” says the specialist.
Virtual reality. It’s incredible how VR is becoming increasingly cheaper. Kraft says it’s a fantastic way to be on a roller coaster, for example. “Technology can be used for therapy. It can be used for education, to learn more complex things about surgeries and even to democratize medicine.”
Today, pilots use this tool in flight classes and to learn how to fly new aircraft. But VR could also be used in medicine for surgeons to practice surgeries before they actually happen. “The price is more affordable. Genome sequencing is cheaper – it costs just $200 – but with this, I’m able to purchase the drugs that are most appropriate for my body,” says Kraft. This allows for everything to be customized, from dieting to physical exercising. “Don’t think how we are now. Think exponentially how we will be in a decade,” he said.