The Future of Healthcare


Medicine is one of the most lucrative career paths in the developing nations including here in India. Students invest much time and money to get into some medical college of repute. It seems silly then why these people determined for a future in medicine do not care to spend some time to speculate at the future of medicine.

“It takes five years for people to get anything. The first few times they hear it, they can think of a thousand reasons why it’s wrong. Then, after they’ve heard it a few more times, it starts to sound more logical. If you’re a missionary, you’ve got to be patient with your congregation. We are at the very beginning stages of thinking about this”.

Leroy Hood

Obama Honors Winners Of The Nat'l Medal Of Science, Technology, Innovation
President Obama honoring Leroy Hood with the National Medal of Science on February 1st, 2013

Pudget Sound Business Journal’s latest edition (February 1-7, 2013) has a special section discussing the emerging trends in the healthcare business. The cover article by reporter Valerie Bauman features Leroy Hood’s concept of P4 (predictive, preventive, personalized, participatory) medicine. Highlighted alongside are the differences between the medical life of a baby born in the 2010s and one born in the 2020s. He was just last week awarded the National Medal of Science 2012 by the US President Barack Obama. His vision of the healthcare 10 to 15 years from now, in his own words, is

“Take into account that your genome and mine differ by 6 million
nucleotides. We have to treat you differently than we treat me and everybody else. How we create an era of highly personalized medicine will depend entirely on new diagnostic, therapeutic and ultimately, these preventive techniques. What we’ll do is feed your genome sequence into a grid network of computers that will do many different kinds of analyses simultaneously. You’ll get a summary sheet that says here are the things and here are the probabilities that you’ll likely have to worry about in the future.”

The article describes how the constantly decelerating price of genome sequencing would enable to sequence the genome of each new born. The information from the genome and bio-markers would allow predicting and, hence, preventing diseases at the earliest. This would facilitate personalized therapies for individual patients and drugs for genetic subsets in the population. Personalizing medicine would demand revolutionary changes in the pharmaceutical industry (demolishing the one-size-fits-all notion behind blockbuster drugs). Prediction and prevention (combined term is precision) would replace the conventional framework of practicing medicine where patients need to get sick actually before their symptoms (yes! only the symptoms) can be treated upon. Transfer of these radical changes in healthcare from the labs to the clinics would require active participation of physicians, patients, healthcare industry and the society in general. Here is the story by Bauman, titled Marked for Life in downloadable PDF format (redirected from the ISB website). The many sponsored ads and the watermarks may be a bit annoying, but it definitely is an enjoyable read.

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