The future of personalized medicine

The future of personalized medicine

January 13, 2017

  • Karen Anderson joined a panel discussion on the future of personalized medicine.

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  • Experts from the health care world met at ASU to discuss the future of personalized medicine. 

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January 13, 2017

The 21st century’s barrage of new technologies has revolutionized the ways doctors practice medicine in the clinic and in their laboratories.


The rate of change is only expected to get faster, and so it is difficult for today’s medical experts to accurately depict the future of health care. There are some ideas however, that clinicians hope to see continue into the next frontier of medicine.


One of these emerging ideas is personalized medicine. While there has been a lot of hype and hope about personalized medicine, one thing is certain: modern technologies are allowing caregivers to vastly understand more about their individual patients.


Personalized and customizable health care was the topic of interest for an expert panel discussion at ASU on January 11th . Professors Amy Foxx-Orenstein, Heather M. Ross and the Biodesign Institute’s  own Karen Anderson weighed in on the important trends and technologies that are driving personalized healthcare.


The shift from therapeutic care to preventive care is an important part of the personalized medicine equation according to the doctors who spoke at the Wednesday event. Such a shift would help to stop illnesses before they result in life threatening health situations, and also take a burden off of healthcare systems.


“As we start shifting towards prevention we will make a more efficient healthcare system. The problem is how to get there,” said Anderson.


The answer may lie partly in wearable technology. Most everyone has seen or owns one by now; the little electronic wristbands that collect information on things like heart rate and blood pressure. Over time these smartphone-linked devices can collect a treasure trove of health data on their wearers, which can be useful to both patients and doctors. They can act as an early alert system, warning their wearers and informing doctors when signs of a potential health issue may appear.


Anderson believes anticipatory monitoring has the biggest value potential f, but there are still hurdles to overcome.


First, you need to show that earlier detection has an impact on mortality rates in order to get people behind the research. If there is a link between early detection and decreasing mortality rates, wearable users become a population of people who can be studied and evaluated for intervention.


Next, medical researchers need to build the bridge from information gathering into prevention.


“For a lot of things we have the technology, but it’s operationalizing that technology where we fall short still. The technology is there, but how we use the technology needs to come a long way,” Ross said.

The breakout of wearables is just the beginning of a whole new wave in personalized medicine. Along with ever more precise blood tests that can measure minute molecules to help diagnose people--even before symptoms appear---or tiny bots to deliver drugs within the body, we are only at the conceptual beginning of what personalized health care will look like. Health care in our lifetimes may well be something straight out of science fiction.


Written by: Gavin Maxwell