Having watched my fair share of medical dramas over the years, I’ve become a little numb to their predictable characters and soap opera storylines, but a new show making its debut at the end of October has me intrigued for a number of reasons. With “Pure Genius,” CBS is attempting to offer us a glimpse at what medicine could look like in the future were it not for the bureaucracies, red tape, lack of funds and selfish motives that hold us back today.
The fictional show is centered on a billionaire and Silicon Valley tech mogul who has a devastating health secret and a quest to solve medicine’s largest puzzles at a state-of-the-art hospital called Bunker Hill. (He’s like Dr. House, but with unlimited funding.) James Bell, the tech titan, enlists the help of Dr. Walter Wallace who— as we learn in a 5-minute trailer for the show— believes in human-based medicine and is skeptical of Bell’s tech-focused mission. It appears Bell may have brought Wallace on to help marry the two ideas.
In the trailer we are given a snapshot of the medical technologies that doctors can rely on thanks to Bell’s ability to skirt federal regulations and budget meetings. For instance, “The Wall” serves as mission control for patient information, and includes their CT scans, MRIs, vitals. and personal data. “The Wall” also contains a feature that enables patients to choose what setting brings them comfort, like climbing the moon or running in a jungle. The trailer presents us with a patient who has pushed off chemotherapy for a cancerous tumor to protect her unborn child, and thereafter we watch Bell tell Wallace he can practice the necessary, near-impossible surgery that is promised to save the patient and her baby with the use of a state-of-the-art 3-D printing machine.
There’s the “E-Hub,” an adhesive computer that monitors patients’ vitals and location in real-time, and alerts the center when there is a medical emergency. And then we’re shown a pediatric patient, who has been in a coma for six months with no change in prognosis. Rather than tell the patient’s parents that nothing else can be done for their child, Bell purchases the technology company that developed a device with the capability to transmit messages from brain to brain to see if there is any stream of consciousness within the patient’s brain. At this point, I began drooling.
Can you imagine what else could be accomplished at a hospital like this? Will we even know how to use the technology that will be available to us in the not-so-distant future? Is this really what the future of medicine will look like for us?
From what I’ve seen in an administrative role, probably not. And that makes me incredibly sad. After each administrative meeting, I walk away amazed at how American health care has become less about the patient and more about the political gain. Nearly every decision is based on the politics of money, maintaining a good image, and being able to use a hospital scorecard as a marketable tool. The bureaucrats in Washington are so focused on making medicine fit inside a global pen that they fail to see the important advancements in genetics research and that medicine is perhaps more individualized than our regulations will allow.
The show parallels with reality in that Bell’s medical secret comes in the form of Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease (GSS), a real-life, fatal genetic disease for which he has tested positive. In a race against time, he built the hospital in hopes that he’d find a cure before it was too late for him. Let me remind you that every single medical discovery made by men and women of the past has been predicated by an individual’s impossibly rare disease and the desperate need to find a cure. The message behind Pure Genius and the fictional hospital featured in it is what amazing medical feats can be accomplished when all of that political garbage is pushed aside.
Entertainment purposes aside, my hope for the series is that it helps encourage the appitite for today’s young minds and that they are willing and able to join “the revolution”— as Bell calls it— for the right reasons. We need them to take back ownership of medical innovation, we need them to lead us back to patient-centric health care system, and we need them to push back on Washington’s bureacrats and their bogus legislation so we can open new doors in the field of science. With their willingness to fight for the future of our health care, 30 years from now, Pure Genius may look like a chapter in our health care’s storied past as opposed to a glimpse at what could have been.