Imperial College London’s Professor Lord Ara Darzi and Dr. Oliver Keown recently wrote about “precision health—where treatments or prevention can be targeted to take account of individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle” and predicted that it will “transform health care economies around the world.”

According to the authors, “the ingredients and will certainly exist to realize the impossible, now more than ever.” 

Some of those “impossible” realizations include:

  • The use of precision treatments to stop illnesses well before any symptoms appear
  • The design of custom drugs optimized for specific patients
  • The editing of the human genome in an effort to reverse or cure congenital conditions
  • The use of diet to alter gut micro-flora and disrupt the natural course of some diseases
  • The ability for healthcare providers to “accurately characterize infections and optimize therapy in real-time”

Darzi and Keown note, however, that while these realizations may revolutionize individual healthcare, only “the management of population health…can offer a paradigm shift towards health promotion and away from the reactive management of disease.”

...the burgeoning amounts of data—captured dynamically over healthy lifetimes and during the course of disease—will need to be evaluated and interpreted, which will require new algorithms to be developed using machine learning and advances in artificial intelligence. This in turn will drive demographic shifts in the health care workforce with new cadres of health care professionals having advanced computing and analytical skills and a shift in traditional doctor–patient relationships—in which the “power” rests with the doctor—towards new models of interaction whereby patients, the guardians of their own data, become active co-developers of their long-term precision health plans.

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