Is It Time to Rethink Healthcare?
(Still in progress)
As the 4th industrial revolution is sweeping through different sectors of our economy and transforming communication, entertainment, retail, transportation, energy, space, etc. one sector that has been so far absent from this transformation process is healthcare (including the adjacent fields of medicine and our understanding of human biology).
Anyone who has recently interacted with the healthcare sector will attest that the healthcare sector seems to be stuck in the past, by about 30 years.
Our healthcare approach is lacking the digitalization and technological connectivity that is available in other sectors.
Our healthcare approach is not even keeping up with all the medical research that is available to the masses on the internet, or the progress that is occurring in one field that affects another field.
Our healthcare approach is completely disjointed and over-segregated.
It should be possible to digitalize and technologize healthcare, collect more individualized biological data and vertically integrate our understanding of the human body, to better understand everyone’s individual biology.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has changed our reality, disrupting everyone’s lives and causing over 100 million global infections and over 2.5 million global deaths, we are being reminded that the evolution of healthcare still has a lot of potential.
In an unprecedented global effort, several pharmaceutical companies were able to quickly develop novel vaccines. Yet for those 2.5 million people, who are dead, that effort came too late. They are gone!
Then there is the additional burden of “long-Covid”. For about 10% of the infected population (which is about 10 million people), the recovery from Covid never fully occurred and many are dealing with prolonged, debilitating symptoms, many months after their infection has cleared. We still do not understand to what extent their lives will be impacted in the future.
And there were people, who were infected with Covid, yet were completely asymptomatic and never realized it.
These three distinct scenarios, death, “long-Covid” and asymptomatic are a great reminder of how uniquely different every single human body is and how much we can still learn, to understand each person’s individual, optimal health setting.
Given that we are in an unprecedented age of data, information, technology, it should be possible to change healthcare at a revolutionary scale!!!
It should be possible to develop a better understanding of each individual’s body functions and processes as they pertains to that body’s dynamic state, thereby making healthcare more individualized, data driven and integrated.
Currently, our approach to healthcare is segregated into different fields and specialties. And when something about our body breaks down, our approach is to try to fix whatever has broken by looking at that individual organ. If the problem is anything uncommon or complex, the approach basically involves blind experimentation with different medication, at the discretion of that healthcare provider. There is very little prior data collection.
This approach is likely an outcome of our past structural limitations.
Yet it is clear to everyone that the human body is a single, complex, evolving ecosystem. And the only way to really understand it, is by approaching it as a living, evolving ecosystem.
The best approach for understanding any complex system is collecting more input-state-output data on that system over a long time-period. This provides sufficient data to understand how that system behaves as it evolves over time.
Several fields adjacent to healthcare are going through significant progress.
- We are developing a more complete understanding of genetics, and genetic mapping is becoming increasingly cheaper. Shouldn’t we start healthcare with each person’s genotype, to better understand the evolution of each person’s phenotype?
- There is increasing effort to understand the human microbiome with the multitude of bacteria living in us (not only in our gut, but also in our mouth, airways, lungs, etc). Can we do more individual testing to better understand how each microbiome contributes to each person’s health and dynamic state? That information could be very useful at scale.
- With evolving technology there are better and cheaper means to do blood content testing. We should strive to collect as much information as possible about each individual’s blood content, to better understand how that specific body functions. At scale, this will give us a better understanding on the human body overall.
- Then there are the affects sleep and lifestyle have on our health. This is being currently explored with different fitness and lifestyle trackers. Now we can understand sleep patterns, activity level, track heart rate, body temperature and many other body signals. There is significant potential to use this technology and integrate it into our health process.
- Then there is progress in the field of nutritional supplements, yet still in its infancy. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, we were told to increase our intake of Vitamin C, D, Zinc, etc. But would it be possible to understand what supplementation each individual needs the most and how much? This would be ideal for experimentation and data analysis. Let someone take 1000mg Vitamin C for a week and see how it effects the CMP and CBC values. Then do the same with Vitamin D. Collect all that data and compare with a baseline case, to see how these substances affect that specific body. Anyone who has taken supplements knows that they affect each individual differently. Can we have smart-supplements, instead of dumb-supplements?
It should be possible to collect all that data from genotype, to phenotype characteristics, to blood content and bio-markers, to microbiome, to supplements, to lifestyle (all from a large number of people), to integrate all that information, to develop a better understanding of human biology, including immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, digestive system.
So next time a pandemic hits, everyone can be ready and most people just react asymptomatically.
One goal would be to optimize everyone’s immune system. An optimal immune system can better deal with almost anything including cancer, infections, injury.
The entire human body starts from just a single cell, hence one day if we can understand biology well enough, using fabricated m-RNAs, just a single cell should theoretically be able to repair anything.
Many people are being treated daily for a multitude of diseases, but all of that knowledge and information remains unused.
Can we collect more data, analyze more data from large population samples, do more biomarker testing, more input-state mapping, integrate all that information and develop a better understanding of human biology, and a better understanding of each individual’s biology?
Then we can use that individual knowledge for that individual’s healthcare needs.
It should be possible to use all that data, given where technology is heading!!!
We should aim to transform healthcare the way Amazon transformed retail, or the way Netflix transformed entertainment or the way Tesla transformed transportation.
At the core of all these transformations was the use of more data, better technology and vertical integration.
The same can be done with healthcare!
… to be continued