How Precision Medicine Hopes to Recapture Part of the Past

Before the era of randomized clinical trials in large-scale publications of medical journals, physicians relied on their own knowledge and a small supply of individual case reports to understand a patient’s condition. Back then, individualized medicine was not only the norm, it was a necessity. The newly emerging concept of precision medicine hopes to recapture some of that with new ways of doing things.

Our current model of medicine in the West revolves around large data sets based on clinical studies. Doctors, scientists, and researchers all look at the data as a means of generally understanding disease and injury. This sort of understanding leads to a general treatment protocol applied to patients across the board. There is very little room for individualization under this model.

Precision medicine aims to change that. As a medical model, precision medicine seeks to utilize new sources of data in order to create an individualized understanding of disease on a case-by-case basis. Such an understanding should lead to an individualized treatment plan in most cases.

Precision Medicine and Genetic Sequencing

The precision medicine model does not completely abandon the large data sets produced by clinical studies. It only seeks to add to that data by way of genetic sequencing. In other words, the precision medicine philosophy calls for gathering and analyzing genetic data from patients to better understand the underlying causes of disease.

Although precision medicine is promising, there are still plenty of roadblocks that need to be overcome. One of the big ones is how data is harvested, analyzed, and put to use. These are not easy tasks.

Physicians already have difficulty keeping up with the large data sets they already have access to. Expecting them to make effective use of genetic sequencing data without in-depth training is unrealistic. Furthermore, providing the training is equally unrealistic.

The solution is to come up with better systems for handling data. As those systems are gradually developed (and they are being developed right now) a new partnership will emerge in Western medicine. It will be a partnership between physicians and artificially intelligent machines capable of collaborating with their human controllers to create personalized treatment plans.

Gathering and Analyzing Data

Rock West Solutions, a California company that specializes in data analytics and signal processing for the medical industry, says that the important thing for precision medicine right now is coming up with precise ways to gather and analyze genetic sequencing data.

The technology already exists for looking at genetic sequencing data and understanding it in a general sense. But our understanding of how genetic sequencing effects disease is rudimentary at this point. We can link certain genetic irregularities to certain diseases, but we still do not know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

This is where new artificially intelligent systems come into play. Researchers are working on building systems that can take unfathomable amounts of data, compare and analyze it, and learn from the results. In an ideal scenario, an intelligent system could look at genetic data gleaned from a home DNA test and be able to extrapolate, with fairly good accuracy, patient risks for things like diabetes and dementia.

Better data will help doctors better treat patients throughout their lifetimes. The data will point out certain risks; it will bring hereditary issues to the forefront; it will give physicians the ability to encourage patients to avoid this and embrace that.

If precision medicine matures as expected, it will help recapture part of the past. It will enable doctors to devise more personalized treatment plans rather than having to rely on generalities.