Future Challenges in Medicine

Medicine, anciently known as ‘the art to provide healing’, and understood today as the ‘science’ to provide healing, has a big problem from its core etymology and definition. Medicine assumes disease or illness is already present in patients. Thus, patients attend doctor’s consultations for prescriptions, to the doctor’s best of knowledge, alleviates the ailment. Why does medicine focus on illness waiting to the treated?

Advances in information technologies today, allow us to understand illness at levels which where not available last decade, and that continue to generate data and knowledge at unprecedented levels. Genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, interactomics, are becoming more and more accessible to the general public. The disruptive power of technology and innovation is, and will continue, shaping the future of medicine. Healthcare provision today, and a few years from know, has to incorporate this information and knowledge, which is shifting ownership from hospitals, medics, or laboratories, towards IT platforms. In this context,communication is key, patients, health authorities, and IT solutions must coexist for the greater good. In order to convey and provide such information, digital technologies have all that is needed to re-shape healthcare provision.

Today’s life style and health-aware technologies allow us to monitor parameters such as heart-rate and physical activity, etc.. There is growing constumer trend for self-monitoring. We are on the verge of shifting towards the ability to monitor and care for future health complications before they happen or while they happen. Moreover, knowing facts about our own genetic risks, will allow us to take more informed health decisions prior to complications (see Angelina Jolie’s example).

The patient is then, today, empowered with information on clinical decisions; consultation with medical professionals, topic experts, and other patients could aid this decision process. Moreover, medicine shifts from disease centred towards personalized, participative and preventive medicine. This trend has already been highlighted by medical scholars (see 4P medicine). By having medical analysis tools for home usage, self-generated medical data can be, not only be used for better understanding of a medical condition by the community, but also kept private. I propose an upgrade for the medicine of today: personalized, self-provided, and preventive. Technology is here, now, to empower the patient with personal health information, giving the option to take preventing actions, and allowing for better consultation on health decisions.

Two trends, two challenges

  1.  The provision of individualized solutions, taking into account the patient’s context. Not the typical one-fits-all solution. Ten years ago we talked about one kind of breast cancer, today more than 10 different types are molecularly identified, hence the need for personal diagnostic solutions
  2. Caused by a technology driven accumulation of knowledge, the access to information ultimately leads patients to take informed decisions. Although it might be possible to bypass the doctor, he remains a moral authority open for consultation. Doctors, and IT tools, can bring the gap between knowledge, treatment, prediction, and prevention of disease.

written by

Dr. Juan Leonardo Martinez




Categories: Blog

Tags: Leaders of Tomorrow, Innovation Gap, Biotechnology

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