Anybody with even the vaguest interest in politics and economics will recognize that the provision of healthcare is one of the most important global financial problems for private citizens and for governments. On the one hand, improvements in healthcare provision over the past two centuries are probably the most important single achievement of the scientific method in the industrialized world: In 1800, life expectancy for someone in Europe would have been less than 50 years; someone born in Europe today could reasonably expect to live late into their seventies. Of course, these improvements in healthcare and life expectancy have not yet found their way to all parts of the globe, but overall, the trend is positive, and this is, of course, a cause for celebration.
But these welcome advances have created challenges. First, populations are, on average, becoming older. And older people typically require more healthcare than younger people, which means that the overall cost of healthcare has risen. Second, as we develop new drugs and treatments for diseases and other afflictions, the overall range of conditions that we can treat increases—which also leads to additional healthcare costs. And of course, a key underlying reason for the expense of healthcare is that the resources required to deliver healthcare are expensive, and people with the skill and qualifications to do so are scarce.
Because of these problems, healthcare—and more particularly funding for healthcare—is everywhere a perennial issue for politicians to wrangle with. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, then, if there were a technological fix to the healthcare problem?