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Posts from the ‘From Doctor to Futurist’ Category

From Doctor to Futurist: Step #7 The First Real Steps

After fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a doctor and a geneticist, I decided to make a brave change in my academic career and tried to merge my two selves: the doctor and the geek. As there was no profession like that, I created one. This is how I started discovering the steps needed to become a medical futurist. There is no clear path or course for that, therefore I try to reveal more and more pieces of information about this exciting journey in a series of blog entries.

I clearly described my mission and the reasons behind becoming a medical futurist before and it was time to contribute to this field in many ways. When I published my white paper, The Guide to the Future of Medicine with those 40 trends I think will shape the future, the feedback was amazing. By creating the #MedicalFuture hashtag in collaboration with Symplur, the plan was to centralize the flow of information focusing on the future of medicine & healthcare.

Similarly to how I strategically collected networks focusing on filtering the news in the topic of  “
healthcare-social media”, I use the same method for building networks around myself in the field of futuristic studies. This is one of the reasons why I’ve dedicated a lot of efforts to the Medical Futurist Newsletter, a free, daily newsletter selecting the key news items every single day.

I had a chance to contribute to the FUTURIST magazine managed by the World Future Society which is a good way to get some exposure for my white paper and to get introduced to the futurist communities.


I keep on improving my knowledge about foresight and the methods used in futuristic studies; attend conferences such as the recent Singularity Summit Europe and test services/tools/products that lead to the future of medicine.

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The John Kemény Award I got from the  John von Neumann Computer Society for my research and other activities in computer science is a fantastic recognition. Moving forward, I work hard on completing my new mission: bringing disruptive technologies and innovations to everyday healthcare.


In order to reach this, I still have to learn the tricks of the methods used in foresight and futuristic studies; contribute more to this field and find a way to introduce the profession of “medical futurist” to the industry. I’ll keep on sharing the steps required for these.

Steps taken so far:

The Hard Life of a Medical Futurist: Winter is Coming

I just received some books I plan to read in the next couple of weeks. As I mentioned earlier, in my journey of becoming a medical futurist from a doctor, I need to retrain myself and such books are of great help. Have I missed something from the recently published ones?

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From Doctor to Futurist: Step #6 The Responsibility

After fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a doctor and a geneticist, I decided to make a brave change in my academic career and started discovering the steps needed to become a medical futurist. There is no clear path or course for that, therefore I try to reveal more and more pieces of information about this exciting journey in this series of blog entries.

In the journey so far, I’ve described what it means to become a medical futurist, I’ve been sharing reports about the key trends of technological advances determining the future of medicine and healthcare (part one and two); Stanford Medical School asked me to talk about the future of mobile health in a short film (below), moreover I’m working on a white paper about the future which should be published early September.


Recently, I’ve had a chance to talk and share views with Joe Flower, healthcare futurist of over 30 years of experience; and Ian Pearson, futurologist and author of You Tomorrow. What I wanted to discuss with them is the thin line between collecting trends and aspects about the future and working as a futurist; and they shared very important pieces of advice with me.

In a nutshell, the key is responsibility. Providing predictions about the future and assuming that such technologies will be used by people is relatively easy, compilation of trends is even easier, but coming up with concepts and trend waves which determine the real practical future of medicine taking economics and demographics into consideration, well that is the real job of  a medical futurist.

Let me give you an example. In 1950, the hospital of the future was described in this short video featuring baby drawers and lamps in the OR. It underscores the notion that predicting the future of medicine is extremely hard. Some special developments might get finalized in months, while other obvious ones might need decades.


Nowadays, we have to deal with issues such as cyborg overlords, simulating brain activity with computers, bionic eye implants,  the ethical dimensions of radical life extension, self-guided intubation robots, or smartwatches.cyborg

It means making accountable predictions requires advanced systems thinking, therefore I’m starting this open course now.

I want to be a medical futurist who not just collects the current trends and compiles them, but comes up with reasoning that lets all stakeholders of medicine prepare better for the future.

In order to strengthen this position, I will launch a daily newsletter about the future of healthcare soon.

The 7th step will be about the methods used by futuristic studies.

Steps taken so far:

From Doctor to Futurist: Step #5 Being a Medical Futurist

After fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a doctor and a geneticist, I decided to make a brave change in my academic career and started discovering the steps needed to become a medical futurist. There is no clear path or course for that, therefore I try to reveal more and more information about this exciting journey in this series of blog entries.

This step might be surprising but it’s really important to position yourself. Everyone is a futurist now therefore one must be very cautious when using this expression. Scott Smith, changeist, divides them into the following groups:

There are different flavors of futurists. There is the professional, consulting kind, many of whom trained in a formal university or professional program, and use structured methods and tools to help large organizations make sense of trends and develop strategies. There are the self-proclaimed futurists who are enthusiasts of a specific area such as technology, food, health, culture and so on, who dedicate themselves to furthering a favored future (here I would place Kurzweil and kin). Then, there are the broader masses of folk who like the idea of the future, and speak about leading others there, or just surround themselves in the trappings of all that is shiny and future-esque.

While there are university programs and courses in futuristic studies, I don’t think I should deal with the major changes in economy or society (see the video below), but focus only on bringing disruptive medical technologies to everyday healthcare.


Brian David Johnson, the futurist of Intel,  described what if feels like being a futurist:

  1. You start with understanding what people need and want.
  2. You understand what technology holds for the next few years.
  3. You collect data about the changing world.
  4. Then you try to find out what it would feel like to be human in the near future based on the previous observations and data.

Some people try to foresee the future in many ways, others try to predict outcomes by using social media discussions, or focus on technological advances such as Google Glass, although my job is not to foresee or predict anything, instead, extrapolate today’s trends and try to prepare all stakeholders of healthcare for changes they will have to face.

While others don’t, I do believe healthcare will always need medical professionals, but it’s true their role will be different serving as apo-mediators in the system. This is the area where someone must take responsibility and implement practical changes into everyday medicine.

This is why I created a website where I collect all my activities and correctly identify myself as a medical futurist describing the clear missions I outlined:



At my recent Doctors 2.0 and You keynote in Paris, I described some major points about what it means to be a medical futurist and what aspects I have to keep in mind.

  • The future of healthcare will be based on patients who will be able to measure anything about themselves from blood count to ECG and even genomic data.
  • We must prepare students and medical professionals for this digital world. This is why I launched a university course, an e-learning platform and wrote a book. Every medical student in the world must read e-Patient Dave’s book!
  • My role as a medical futurist is to close the gap between e-patients and their not that web-savvy doctors; as well as between digital technologies and everyday medicine.

Steps taken so far:

From Doctor to Futurist: Step #4 The Mission

After reaching my childhood dream of becoming a geneticist, I decided to make a brave change in my academic career and started discovering the steps needed to become a medical futurist. There is no clear path or course for that, therefore I try to reveal more and more information about this exciting journey in this series of blog entries.

After giving a talk about how I have been using social media for medical purposes as a geek doctor at the recent FutureMed course at NASA campus organized by the Singularity University, I was very much surprised that the audience seemed to be quite surprised by the whole range of opportunities social media can provide in medicine. It became clear for me, my job as a medical futurist is not only facilitating the adoption of digital and disruptive technologies in the practice of medicine and healthcare, but I must put a special emphasis on social media.


I think this intention was also made clear in the reviews I wrote about the future of medicine (Key Trends in the Future of Medicine: E-Patients, Communication and Technology & 15 Predictions in Healthcare, Technology and Innovation for 2013).

It’s good to see my mission that clearly, but the steps ahead of me are still mysterious which makes the journey even more exciting. In this quest, my next task is to digest a few amazing must-have books for futurists:


The next step should be the comparison of the methodologies I have used as a genome researcher and the ones I should use now as a futurist. The point from which you become a futurist is also very interesting to cover.

Steps taken so far:

From Doctor to Futurist: Step #3 Attending FutureMed

I have been documenting the steps of becoming a medical futurist for some time now (#1 The Decision; #2 The Filter), and it’s a pleasure to announce the next step as my application for attending the famous FutureMed conference/course was accepted. It is an amazing set of lectures organized and managed by the Singularity University. The faculty includes Peter Diamantis, Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Kraft or astronaut Dan Barry, among others.

Between 4 and 9 of February, I will listen to the most important experts of many medical areas such as the future of the medical practice, personalized medicine, robotics or biotech innovation.

FutureMed is an intimate program with one-on-one interaction with many of the 50+ World Class Faculty. Space is limited and FutureMed 2011 and 2012 sold out. The next FutureMed dates are still to be announced.

I cannot wait to attend it and of course, I’ll blog about the course and my next steps as well.

Here are the participants and faculty of 2012:

From Doctor to Futurist: Step #2 The Filter

A few weeks ago, I started documenting all the steps in the process of becoming a futurist as a medical doctor. In the first step, I wrote about how I made that decision. Now, the second step is about how I collect information and filter the web in the field of futuristic studies from the medical perspective as I have to be able to deal with this huge amount of information.

It’s quite simple to reach futurist gurus internationally via social media, therefore first I sent messages to many of them such as Thomas Goetz and Clement Bezold asking for guidance and they provided me with great pieces of advice about which information resources I should use.

I set up Google Alerts search queries and filled Google Reader with these resources which means I receive all the relevant updates automatically. Here are the resources I started following in this topic:

Please let me know if you think there are resources I’m missing here. In the third step, I’ll write about the methodologies.


From Doctor to Futurist: Step #1 The Decision

Now that I’m a few weeks away from defending my PhD thesis in the field of clinical genomics, I decided to start looking for new challenges in my academic career, and I pretty soon found it: becoming a futurist is the next step! This is the topic about which I have been writing on my blog and speaking in my presentations for many years. I just have to centralize the flow of information, my ideas and research projects under one entity, getting involved in futuristic studies.

I browsed among the names of futurists, and healthcare & medicine are not the most frequently covered topics therefore I think there is a niche for futurists working on the future trends of medicine and healthcare with a special focus on digital communication and e-patients.

In case you wonder what a futurist exactly is:

Futurists (not in the sense of futurism) or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose speciality is to attempt to systematically predict the future, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.

I talked with many futurists and the first thing they mentioned was that it’s pretty hard to describe what a futurist actually does and there aren’t many institutions dedicated to the medical aspects of this field. But I don’t give up things easily and decided to document each step in this probably long and exciting process. Next, I’ll collect the available research groups, associations and online repositories.

I’m very excited about this and I hope you will follow me on this road, actually I very much count on your feedback. For a doctor with a life-long mission of helping e-patients and the new generation of medical professionals with digital technologies and social media, I cannot wait to discover this new area.


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