Expert Blog Dr Ton Hanselaar (VBHC Thinkers Magazine, April 2019)

Exponential Medicine focuses on the use of pioneering biological and technological developments in healthcare. Visiting the Exponential Medicine Conference provided insights into the latest developments and the pioneering technologies of the coming years.

What can be expected in the near future?

Digitized health record
Workflows of patient’s journeys can be digitized, with data from diagnosis, treatment, care, monitoring, and prevention, creating an all digitized health record. Personal data will be captured, including real-time remote patient data, and visual, and textual data from images, videos, x-ray’s, ultrasound, MRI, CT scans, etc. Artificial intelligence, will be used for automating the analysis of these data for precision care.

Sequencing of DNA has grown exponentially since 2015, propelled by Next Generation Sequencing, using optical signals to read DNA. It becomes a mainstream tool for practitioners. By 2020, DNA of 50% of all Chinese newborns will be sequenced.

3D printing of medicines has important advantages over the normal way of producing. Instead of a fixed dose and composition, a medicine can be made to measure. The shape of the pill can also be adjusted with the effect that it is absorbed faster by the body.

Importance for the development of medicine

Globally, current healthcare is complex, often ineffective and inefficient and, according to many, doomed to be reorganized. The key to this lies in a shift from existing often bureaucratic structures, methods and procedures, to companies and startups that focus on the use of advanced technologies to quickly bring tools and methodologies close to the patients. Medical decisions can be made easier and faster by doctors and patients thanks to the use of faster and more intelligent computers, the use of artificial intelligence, the sharing of knowledge, and open collaboration.

This also creates new partnerships between doctors, biomedical researchers, entrepreneurs, and strikingly many enterprising, well-informed patients who use the space that exists in (regulated) market forces to take major steps. It is remarkable to see which enormous power is shown during the annual Exp Med conferences. Where until recently small scientific steps were taken via publications and presentations and the involvement of the business community was sometimes no more than a contribution to the conference costs, a strong and initiative-rich collaboration has now arisen that wants to respond quickly to a changing question from the patient – consumer.

What do these pioneering developments bring to the patient?

According to Exponential Medicine, the future is that patients become the CEO of their own health. The expectation is that we ourselves can keep our health under control without too many intermediaries. Instead of going to the doctor to solve our health problems, we can already preventively monitor and improve our well-being from day to day, in a way that is still difficult to imagine.

If the patients were still on hold a few years ago, this is no longer the case with these new approaches. Research results are quickly translated into products and are often primarily aimed at the patients themselves, in such a way that they can benefit immediately and quickly. As these technologies progress and knowledge becomes available simply and on a large scale, it becomes possible for everyone to gain more and more ownership of their health and the required care. And that could be at little or no cost and regardless of income or geography.

Certainly there will always be times where direct patient-doctor contact is crucial. This involves the common interface, the square meter of the patient and the doctor where it all happens, where value is recognized for the patient and where top expertise is brought together, and delivered, based on all available knowledge.

And the entire world population – not just the prosperous West – will be positively influenced by this shift in the way we deal with medicine. Experience with previous technological developments – think of the smart phone that is now used in the poorest corners of the world – shows that ultimately everyone can benefit from the latest technology. In this way, the treatments that improve health also become widely available.

We are now in the midst of a (perhaps the greatest) change in health care, where the systems of today will increasingly fall away, because there are many better systems in place. There are virtually no restrictions. We can live up to our greatest dreams.

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