Book News: May 24th, 2000

By Lisa HarkerAccording to a recent report in the British Medical Journal, in 20 years time developments in technology will have transformed hospitals and medical treatment beyond all recognition. Hospitals will be crammed with sensors and robots, and patients will have access to so much information that they will become their own GP. Exciting though these predictions are, the problem is that they are overwhelmingly based upon supply side issues: the technologies that will be possible and the professions that will deliver them.

But what of the patients who are expected to use these new services? Do people want to be treated by robots? Are the public willing and able to become informed and active patients? If the recent controversy over GM food has taught us anything, it is the need to start not from what technology makes possible, but from what the public actually wants and needs. So instead of asking what will the future of medicine will be like, the question becomes, what will the future patient look like, and how can we shape health care services to meet their needs?

Research by IPPR has revealed some interesting issues which are relevant to current policy debates.

The Future Patient is available from Central Books: telephone 020 8986 5488, fax 020 8533 5821 email