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.

In future posts I will address these individually in more depth.

Stephen C. Schimpff is a retired CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore and is the author of The Future of Medicine — Megatrends in Healthcare. He blogs at Medical Megatrends and the Future of Medicine.

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