Genetic profiling, infectious disease mapping, digital implants, and talking medicine cabinets – these are but some of the 20 future scenarios Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide has forecast in a new report.

Based on technology that is already present, the 202020 Vision report discusses 20 ideas that are likely to come to fruition in the next decade and which will revolutionise the way humans live and think about health.

Described as digitally driven healthcare, the report says: “In our view, technology, particularly that which has driven social media, already has had a profound impact on the psychosocial context of health and healthcare. And this will continue at an accelerating pace up to and beyond 2020… We believe that the tipping point of future progress will be the widespread acceptance and adoption of ‘cloud-based’ electronic health histories, also commonly referred to as electronic health records, accessed at any time, any place, anywhere, through personal multi-functional devices (PMFDs) – the ‘smartphones’ of 2020.”

The report claims smartphones are the “digital glue” that will allow technological advances to interact with our bodies and our lifestyles and will ultimately change human behaviour. However, Sarah Gordon, report author and associate director at OgilvyHealthPR, said it was the “interface between technology and the person that is more important than the technology itself and that will be the key to changing behaviour”.   

By 2020, the report suggests preventive health will be the order of the day with genetic profiling gaining widespread acceptance coupled with incentives to participate in disease screening, while partnerships between the pharma industry and the food industry will become common. There will be enhanced personal monitoring of the body at a pre-symptomatic level via miniature implants that will feed the information to ‘cloud-based’ electronic health histories that will provide timely responses. Online patient groups will be a source of data, while every item that is purchased will be likely to have a health value attached to it, the report adds.

“If we are to effect the true potential that ‘technology promises health’, we need to remind ourselves that we are not machines but idiosyncratic human beings, with hopes and fears, stimulated and shaped by the media, family and friends. Public and individual patient communication will be the key to unlocking the benefits of new technologies,” the report says. However, it cautions that “technology in itself is not a panacea; it needs to be adopted and incorporated into our everyday behaviour” and information overload will have to be managed.

Some of the 20 possible future scenarios include: advanced genetic profiling becoming commonplace; customer data being instantly available for all parties and being used in a way to target advertising; Radio Frequency Identification implants monitoring our bodies’ vital signs; patients routinely sharing information and experiences online; a variety of healthcare at home becomes possible; health tourism will be popular; there will be advances in regenerative medicine; robodocs will exist; personalised medicine will be commonplace with pills containing monitoring microchips; and the power of the mind will be harnessed for the healthcare setting.

Said Dickon Laws, digital account director at OgilvyOne worldwide: “Nothing is impossible anymore. There are no walls. We just have to find the time and effort to put it together.”