Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cell by Robin Cook

cover of Cell by Robin Cook
Part of the problem with the current view about health care is that it is care for people are healthy. When you become ill, that's when the problems arise. When Obamacare was first introduced, people talked about death panels, people who would decide that your loved one had a terminal illness that would cost too much to treat. That meant that the loved one would be doomed to die. Some are naive enough to think that politicians and insurance companies care about people think that death panels would never happen. Robin Cook doesn't appear to be one of them. In his latest book, Cell, Cook discusses the future of medicine as imagined with digital and cellular technology. Amalgamated Healthcare has released a cell phone app called iDoc. iDoc takes the patient/doctor relationship in a new direction. iDoc is programmed to answer the patient's every question. It collects all data on the patient, makes recommendations for visits and tests, and can help the patient control diabetes by releasing insulin from an implanted reservoir and releases the amount needed based on the patient's vital signs. iDoc can track all the patient's vital with screen technology that allows the program to test blood droplets. The concept is an interesting one, and it's one that four-year radiology resident, George Wilson, first suggested to Paula Stonebrenner when they were both in medical school. Paula took the idea to Amalgamated, which jumped on implementing the idea. George is impressed with the technology and a bit envious because of the success that Paula has made from his idea.

As the talk progresses about iDoc, George realizes that his fiancee, Kasey, may have been an iDoc beta tester. Kasey died in bed beside George, and he has mourned her loss for the past three months, but George starts to believe that death is shadowing him when he learns of the death of two patients with recent radiological studies that revealed terminal forms of cancer. The crazy thing is that the patients died within 24 hours of the radiology tests. When George's neighbor dies in a violent car crash, George starts to worry because he was realizing that all the deaths also seemed to have been with iDoc beta testers. When George starts to investigate, he finds that he seems to have unleashed some dangerous characters who will stop at nothing to silence George. Is it the federal government, who wants to save healthcare costs by implementing iDoc with Medicare patients, or is it Amalgamated, who wants to save profits?

Robin Cook does a thrilling job of showing us how technology can run amok and produce unexpected results. The plot was realistic, in my opinion, and very pertinent to possible future applications. Sometimes we put too much faith in technology, thinking that it will solve our problems. Instead, new ones are created that we cannot anticipate. In the case of iDoc, the heuristic nature programmed into the application allowed it to believe that it was reasonable and cost efficient to eliminate terminally ill people immediately. After reading Cell, I'll think of the proliferation of technology into our lives in a new light. Cell was the first Robin Cook book that I've read, but I plan on going back to read more!

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