What is the Medical Futures Lab?

Medicine is in the midst of a shift never before seen.  Information and technology are advancing at rates faster than our ability to adapt. Technological changes along with the social force of the Health 2.0 movement are redefining the role of the physician. The doctor of 2050 will think and work in a way that can only be imagined by the current generation. But we are effectively unprepared to deal with what lies ahead.

The Medical Futures Lab (MFL) is a center dedicated to the study and understanding of medicine at its evolving intersection with technology. Our goal is to imagine and predict the future of medicine as a means of preparing the next generation of physicians, patients, and other healthcare stakeholders for the challenges that lie ahead.

The MFL is bringing the undergraduates of Rice University together with humanist scholars, computer scientists, creative designers, medical students and doctors from both University of Texas Health Science Center and Baylor College of Medicine.  A few of our most recent projects:

Medical Media Arts Lab

MMALBuilt as a mashup of the design principles of IDEO and iterative studio critique model of the Rice Schools of Architecture and Engineering, the Medical Media Arts Lab is a Rice University undergraduate course that seeks to teach collaborative problem solving in health care. Working with the the Texas Medical Center’s most vexing communication and visualization challenges, the Media Arts Lab seeks to train the next generation of health care professionals to think differently.  Our work recently caught the attention of the Association of American Medical Colleges – you can read about some of our students on their innovation blog, The Wing of Zock.

Medicine and Media

Many brilliant minds (such as our friend Roni Zeiger) have said that patients are the most underutilized resource in healthcare.  What many people don’t realize is that Electronic Medical Records (aka EMRs or EHRs) are the sexiest media in medicine. This course lays out a framework for our mostly pre-med students to understand how visual images from X-rays to fMRI scans to episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and ads for Celebrex shape doctors’ and patients’ understanding of health and disease. Once we work through these kinds of visual representations, we tackle the visualization of data and patient stories in the form of the dreaded EMR. Why is the usability and visual interface of this screen that occupies the center of almost all medical encounters today so inadequate for its users? Our students have imagined and designed incredible solutions to the challenge of making EMRs useful for doctors and patients.

Medicine in the Digital Age

Final_GraphicIn the spring of 2012, the Medical Futures Lab offered Medicine in the Age of Networked Intelligence, a provocative 50,000 foot view of medicine and its radical disruption. The course was huge success and drew the attention of the social health community well beyond the confines of Rice University and Texas Medical Center.  We’re thrilled to announce that our course will be offered in the Spring of 2015 as a globally available professional development course through MOOC leader edX. Reshaped and formatted for professional online consumers, Medicine in the Digital Age will deliver a comprehensive overview of our evolving healthcare landscape.  Beyond the rich insight available over its 4 week duration, this course represents one of the first collaborative efforts between a major American university and medical school. Register here and be part of history.

The Doctor of the Future

A new series of interviews that face the question, what will the doctor of 2050 look like and what will she/he need to be able do?  This provocative project will begin a conversation about the evolving role of the health care provider.  To understand how we should prepare physicians for a very different future, we will ask questions and listen to millennial leaders, engaged patients, and inspiring thinkers from outside of medicine. Look for Doctor of the Future in the fall of 2015.

Medicine X | Ed


We are proud to be collaborating on a new venture at Stanford’s Medicine X conference called Medicine X Academy. Under this heading, Medicine X will play an active role in cultivating the kinds of educational resources needed to help doctors, patients, and all other healthcare stakeholders to become truly engaged digital citizens. The Medical Futures Lab is thrilled to be on the Advisory Board for this exciting new venture, especially because it means we get to work with the brilliant and inspirational Dr. Larry Chu.

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