Still no jetpacks, but telemedicine, personalized medicine are the future, says study

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Euro RSCG released its annual crystal ball-gazing white paper, The Big Little Book of Nexts: Trendspotting for 2012, in October. Clocking in at 158 pages, it's not exactly little, but the paper, meant to establish the agency's thought leadership and forecasting prowess, draws on the insights of a nimble tech-forward healthcare advertising business. Among its five trends for health are:

•    Increasing medical tourism as hard times drive growth of 25% to 35% per year, according to Patients Beyond Borders, with adventurous types traveling to Hungary for dental surgery, Thailand for elective surgery or Turkey for ophthalmology, perhaps even the “medical cities” envisioned by Indian heart surgeon Devi Shetty.
•    A spike in telemedicine, now that the technology is there, providing a means of sending scans and tests for analysis, remote monitoring of chronic conditions through sensors and real-time interaction through teleconsultations.
•    And then there's the downside of Web-based medicine: a wave of “cyberchondria,” patients self-diagnosing based on some stuff they saw on the Web about some disease that they're now sure they have and then clogging up doctors' offices. Maybe telemedicine can absorb the glut?
•    Personalized medicine is coming online, of course, with new, more targeted drugs, more accurate dosing and improved safety and outcomes -- or the promise thereof, anyway.
•    Diabetes' status as the center of gravity in healthcare will accelerate as governments struggle to rein in the surge in cases and resulting costs, says Euro, noting that an estimated 79 million US adults have prediabetes, according to Centers for Disease Control data, and that the UK's National Health Service is spending a tenth of its total budget on diabetes treatment.

"The transformation of health will continue to accelerate, getting bigger as companies scale beyond traditional borders and also smaller as more targeted therapies and communications come to the fore," says Larry Mickelberg, digital guru at Havas Worldwide Health. "The result is the creation of live global ecosystems of data, help and service. We have the opportunity to marry these new streams with more traditional health communications and power better health experiences."
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