When somebody mentions going to the doctor, the common response is, “Are you feeling alright?” Typically, visiting a doctor is associated with feeling unwell. However as more people face health challenges every day, a modernized approach to healthcare known as personalized medicine is gaining prominence. The conventional healthcare model primarily concentrates on treating the disease or symptoms manifested in the patient. It often overlooks the complex web of factors that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Recent technological advancements have made it possible to detect diseases in their early stages, offering an opportunity for early intervention and prevention.
Personalized medicine takes into account an individual's unique genetic makeup, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices to create a tailored medical plan. This approach aims to make healthcare more personal, predictive, preventative, and participatory. Each person inherits a unique combination of genes from their parents, resulting in an individual with varying susceptibility to different diseases. Moreover, an individual's life experiences further add to the complexity of disease susceptibility.
The personalized medicine approach has the potential to transform the entire healthcare system, with a heightened focus on primary care. In primary care settings, comprehensive information about a patient's health, genetics, and lifestyle is gathered to assess their risk for specific diseases. Collaboratively with the patient, the physician creates a personalized plan for disease prevention and management.
Consider the example of a patient struggling with obesity. During their checkup, various tests are conducted, including genetic markers, BMI measurements, and other baseline assessments. Lifestyle questionnaires delve into diet and physical activity. With this wealth of information, the medical team can work alongside the patient to develop a tailored strategy for managing obesity.
While personalized medicine appears to be a promising addition to our healthcare system, several barriers hinder its implementation. The shortage of primary care physicians has led to high workloads, making it challenging for the physicians to dedicate the necessary time to develop personalized strategies for each patient. Patients may also avoid visiting doctors due to financial constraints or personal preferences. Additionally, the introduction of numerous tests can complicate insurance costs, potentially making healthcare more expensive and subject to disputes over necessity.
To bring about this drastic shift in healthcare, it is critical to reevaluate and restructure parts of the current healthcare system. The current model is unsustainable for the rising complexity of chronic diseases that require strategies for prevention even before symptoms manifest. With more than two-thirds of US healthcare expenditures directed toward chronic diseases, personalized medicine offers a solution to alleviate the burden of noncommunicable diseases. It falls upon the collective demand for change to transform this concept into a system capable of saving countless lives.
Edited by: Sam Shi
Graphic Designed by: David Axon
Snyderman, R. (2012), Personalized health care: From theory to practice. Biotechnology Journal, 7: 973-979. https://doi.org/10.1002/biot.201100297