This is the first chapter of Insights from the Future. This is a book I'm writing about technology, innovation, and people ... from the perspective of the future. It is a collaborative exercise, and you are invited to participate. More details below the story.
Surgeon Unemployment Rate Reaches 75%; Million-dollar Medical Degrees 'Not Worth Paper They're Printed On"
Medical unemployment has hit a staggering 75% as the digital healthtech revolution continues to decimate jobs in what used to be the growth industry of the future.
"I spent ten years and over a million dollars of money I didn't have to become a surgeon," 35-year-old Jennifer Groves told me yesterday. "And now I'm begging for bitcoin on the street."
Medical employment topped out at about 15% of the entire economy in 2025, according to Kaiser Family Foundation statistics. Spending reached almost $4 trillion dollars, says the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an astonishing 21% of all dollars spent in the entire economy.
Today, that percentage is down to just 10%.
"Perhaps I should have known healthcare spending was unsustainable," Groves says. "But everyone said that medicine was the growth industry of the future."
Groves and others like her grew up in an era when medicine was very different. Most people had "family doctors" which they visited several times each year, often waiting weeks for appointments. Significant health issues required accessing a "specialist," a higher-paid doctor with specific training in one particular field, like skin diseases, feet injuries, or eyesight problems.
And complex medical issues, like cancer, often required an inefficient ad-hoc grouping of multiple doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, each of whom only had minimal insight into the problem, and none of whom dealt with the patient's health from a holistic perspective.
Today, of course, anyone can walk into a medical clinic at any time.
Whole-body scanners image our entire bodies down the cellular level just by walking into the clinic. DNA is automatically analyzed, and personalized medicine is fabricated in real-time by medical 3D printers driven by medical AI systems. Wrist, necklace, or internal sensors monitor condition, improvement, or concerns, and relay those continuously to the AI medics, adding to our global store of medical knowledge and improving every diagnosis and treatment continuously, also in real-time.
If surgery is required, sophisticated medical robots handle everything that's required: immediately and on-site.
And, of course, although it's still controversial in some parts of the country, everything is free and paid for by the government. The controversy over "socialized medicine" is rapidly dying down, however, as studies indicate that a health population is a more production population, and that gross domestic product has jumped 17% thanks to rapid and effective treatment of illness, disease, and injury.
None of which makes Groves' pain any easier to bear, of course.
But President Granger recently announced the "Save the Saviors" bill, which will provide funding for retraining doctors and medical professionals with relevant modern skills, as well as offer a minimal living wage while they go back to school. Still unclear: whether Granger's bill will cover expenses like medical school debt.
But Groves does have one consolation.
She may be unemployed. She may be deeply in debt. And she may face several years of retraining for another occupation.
But she is extremely, completely, and totally healthy.
Notes and additional thoughts
I'm writing this book as a collaborative exercise. Each chapter is posted to my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds before going live on Inc. If you'd like to participate in critiquing and improving these posts, connect with me there. Alternatively, join my Telegram group here.
Here are some of the insights people contributed to this post:
How the innovation might happen:
Given the bureaucratic nature of U.S. medicine, I think this type of innovation is much more likely to happen overseas, or as a result of significant foundational funding from organizations like The Gates Foundation or the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. It will likely hit massive regulatory roadblocks as existing players like HMOs and medical professional organizations see huge disruptions to their cash cows, and might even initially be illegal.
University professor and Singularity University partner Michael Koenka thinks this timetable is too slow, and that a decade might be more realistic, citing companies like Mimetas, which are already delivering personalized medicine.
Startup CEO James Ross thinks that 40 years is the right time frame, but that the unemployment rate in the medical professional field might be 30%, not 75%.
And venture capitalist and digital health pioneer John Nosta, who's is both faculty at Singularity University and on Google's health advisory board, thinks that medical professionals will see the writing on the wall over the next 20 years and numbers of entrants to the field will drop, reducing unemployment.
Finally, Zaid Mahomedy, founder of Immersive Authority, thinks that the digital millenials and post-millenials will be flexible and adaptable, and career changes will be easier and quicker than for older generations.