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The End of Health Care as We Know It


After he started experiencing fainting spells in college, doctors told Eric Dishman that he had a confluence of rare diseases and that he would die in two years at the most. Refusing to accept this diagnosis, Dishman went looking for other opinions and treatments. Politico:

Perhaps the most important step I took was having my genome sequenced. I’m lucky to be one of the 47,000 people on the planet to have this raw data on all 6 billion letters of my DNA. In my case, my physician said it changed everything we knew about my diseases and course of treatment—which had been wrong for two decades. The data they were able to uncover paved the way for a kidney transplant I was never supposed to have and a life I was never supposed to live.

Since genome sequencing saved his life, Dishman has become an advocate for big data innovations that allow doctors to personalize medicine. If genome sequencing and similar data collection innovations become cheap enough to be widely affordable (and our experiences with other medical and communication tech suggest they will), then we have a health care revolution in the making. There will still be enough technical and human failure in the system to frustrate those who dream of perfect health care efficiency, but there will be far, far less waste than currently exists. Diagnostics will become much more accurate, and our ability to predict and treat medical conditions before they progress to more costly stages will massively improve.

When you join a hugely impactful innovation like genome sequencing to the everyday accumulation of small-bore developments, you start to get a picture of how radically different tomorrow’s health care system could be. Microbots that can preform minimally invasive eye surgery and serious new applications for silver are just two recent examples of the kindling that will help light a fire under our health care professionals.

But it’s not all up to the scientists and tech geeks who discover or invent this stuff. It’s also important that we pursue policy that facilitates, not frustrates, widespread use of personalized medicine while protecting patient privacy. If we can do that, we might soon put our health care crisis behind us.

[Hospital technology image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • qet

    MRIs and CAT scans have been around for a long, long time. They have not become meaningfully cheaper, and proliferation in their use, whether owing to defensive medicine or other causes, is routinely offered as one of the reasons our healthcare is unaffordable today. I see no reason why genome sequencing/genetic testing won’t be the MRI of the 21st century in this respect. For every Eric Dishman whose life is saved by it, there will be 1,000 people for whom it turned out to be totally useless. But it will be a huge revenue generator (or cost generator, depending on your point of view), and people will start demanding it for all sorts of chronic ailments like allergies, diabetes, IBS, etc. It will have to be paid for.

  • ljgude

    I agree with get that if the people who are making US medicine cost double what it should get control of these tests they will make sure the extract the maximum revenue out of them as their first priority. As the Time article Bitter Pill pointed out the Healthcare industry lobbies Congress at a rate considerably in excess of the Defense Industry. So I ask you. Iz da pope catlick?

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