Earlier this year, I fought and overcame cancer in my neck. On a trip to my doctor for a follow-up, I noticed something odd on one of my CT scans. I pointed it out to my doctor, who immediately realized it was an aneurysm. The 7.5 centimetre bulge on my abdominal aorta was ready to burst. A few days later I had a successful procedure and again, was given a clean bill of health. Two very close calls.
Aneurysms are silent killers. They are notoriously hard to detect and if one is lucky enough to have it preemptively detected, it’s even harder to know when it might rupture. Nearly 75 percent of all patients with a ruptured aneurysm die from the condition – let that sink in.
After sharing the harrowing experience with colleagues, I learned our company had recently launched a pioneering project in New Zealand to spot aneurysms in the general public, with the ultimate goal of identifying those in danger and giving them a chance to have life-saving surgery. Based on epidemiological studies, 800 New Zealanders were identified as likely candidates for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) during a precision screening trial. Of the patients, 632 took up the offer of an ultrasound and 36 were found to have an AAA- a prevalence rate of 5.5 per cent and almost exactly the rate that was predicted by the data analysis. The personal resonance of this study was far greater than I could have ever imagined.
My recent health journey has led me to be even more invested in our company’s mission to make precision medicine a reality worldwide. Precision medicine can ensure clinicians are better-equipped to make care decisions based on data – rather than intuition, clinical visits or trials – and can catch diseases and conditions before they become more serious and much costlier to the healthcare system.
For example, with the right resources, general practitioners can use a handheld ultrasound to check an at-risk patient for an aneurysm right in the doctor’s office. It’s very easy to do, and just one example of an application or precision health.
The explosion of patient data in hospitals, labs, pharmacies and communities presents an immense opportunity. However, it is often unconnected and unshared, making it extremely difficult to take that extra step and utilize it for effective precision health. Our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chris Hobson wrote on the subject earlier this year, urging decision-makers to fix information gaps in the healthcare system.
Having the right tools, such as Amadeus, can provide the proper data integration experience and enable the delivery of precision medicine by aggregating, storing, and making sense of all forms of data. Clinicians can then analyze the data for insights that can be actioned in a patient’s care plan.
The world is on the cusp of an astonishing change in how we approach health. Rather than racing to cure disease once it happens, we can progressively prevent it before it attacks. With the proper approach, we can prevent silent killers, improve outcomes for our populations and usher in a new era of care. I am looking forward with a renewed enthusiasm to see how we at Orion Health can make this vision a reality.