Friday, April 6, 2012

Advances Coming in Medical Science That Will Have a High Impact

There are a series of medical megatrends outlined in my book The Future of Medicine – Megatrends in Healthcare that will profoundly affect health care in the coming five to fifteen years and beyond. Some are due to the explosion of basic understandings of cellular and molecular biology. Others are related to advances in engineering and computer science. Here is a very brief overview.

These are the megatrends in medical care that are coming whether there is any change in health policy or not. First, expect that medical care will become much more custom-tailored to your personal needs. Genomics will allow you physician to select the most appropriate medication for you not just the one that on average works for most people. And he or she [more and more she since 50% of medical school graduates are now women] will also be able to select a drug that is less likely to cause a side effect as a result of you body’s reaction to it – all from knowing your genomic information. The surgeon will use your image such as a CT scan to program the simulator and practice the correct approach for your personal surgery. A vaccine may be made up specifically for you – a designer vaccine – to treat your specific cancer.

Second, expect that medicine will finally begin to focus more and more on prevention. . For example, genomics will allow your doctor to tell you at a young age if you personally are at high-risk for, say, heart disease and then prescribe a regimen of life style changes and medications selected specifically for you to reduce the risk. New vaccines will ward off serous infections and even many chronic debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Third, there will be major advances in repairing, restoring and replacing damaged and diseased organs and tissues. New surgical techniques will allow for remarkable repairs in a much less invasive manner; medical devices will allow the heart to beat regularly and stop the tremor and rigidity associated with Parkinson’s disease. And stem cells will allow for new tissues when old ones no longer function. Xenotransplantation – using an organ from an animal rather than a human – will be come available so that a person needing a heart or kidney will get it immediately and not need to wait and “hope” for someone else to die.

Medial information will be readily available no matter where you are. This will increase safety, convenience and improve medical care quality immensely.

Finally, care will become much safer as genomics adds to our knowledge of what drugs to prescribe, technologies such as simulators teach and demand competency and digitized medical information is readily available

These are the megatrends coming in medical care. They will occur and are coming in not that many years. Hopefully health care policy can advance as well and as fast, but that is much less certain.

For a video of these megattrends go here


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Praise for Dr Schimpff

The craft of science writing requires skills that are arguably the most underestimated and misunderstood in the media world. Dumbing down all too often gets mistaken for clarity. Showmanship frequently masks a poor presentation of scientific issues. Factoids are paraded in lieu of ideas. Answers are marketed at the expense of searching questions. By contrast, Steve Schimpff provides a fine combination of enlightenment and reading satisfaction. As a medical scientist he brings his readers encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. As a teacher and as a medical ambassador to other disciplines he's learned how to explain medical breakthroughs without unnecessary jargon. As an advisor to policymakers he's acquired the knack of cutting directly to the practical effects, showing how advances in medical science affect the big lifestyle and economic questions that concern us all. But Schimpff's greatest strength as a writer is that he's a physician through and through, caring above all for the person. His engaging conversational style, insights and fascinating treasury of cutting-edge information leave both lay readers and medical professionals turning his pages. In his hands the impact of new medical technologies and discoveries becomes an engrossing story about what lies ahead for us in the 21st century: as healthy people, as patients of all ages, as children, as parents, as taxpayers, as both consumers and providers of health services. There can be few greater stories than the adventure of what awaits our minds, bodies, budgets, lifespans and societies as new technologies change our world. Schimpff tells it with passion, vision, sweep, intelligence and an urgency that none of us can ignore.

-- N.J. Slabbert, science writer, co-author of Innovation, The Key to Prosperity: Technology & America's Role in the 21st Century Global Economy (with Aris Melissaratos, director of technology enterprise at the John Hopkins University).