Imagine knowing years in advance whether or not you’ll get cancer and treating it now instead of when the disease appears. What if a doctor could call you hours before suffering a heart attack to tell you to get to the hospital? This may sound like something out of a science fiction novel today, but in the not-too-distant future doctors will be able to treat illnesses before they happen and more.
This exciting future for healthcare is being driven by major leaps in computing power and creative solutions in areas such as:
A growing interest in genomics, a medical discipline where doctors analyze an individual’s DNA, has made predicting diseases possible. It was only 12 years ago that the human genome — essentially our biological blueprint — was officially mapped. It took about a decade and $1 billion for it to happen, in part because about 90 billion data points need to be processed. Now, though, thanks to far faster computing speeds, doctors can sequence an individual’s genome in hours and for around $1,000, says Dr. Mark Blatt, MD, worldwide medical director for Intel.
Add robust predictive data analytic tools into the process — programs that process information and look for patterns and clues as to what might occur — and doctors can determine who might end up in the hospital. “We can see who’s at risk for admission or readmission in the hospital,” says Dr. Charlotte Hovet, MD, medial director at Dell, the global computer technology company. “Who’s at risk for having complications of diabetes? Because we can identify this, we can then manage their care differently.”
Dell has been a leader in the area of genomics because of the massive amounts of computing power it takes to process the data. It has cloud-based servers and proprietary analytics programs that enable the medical community to sequence people’s genomes quickly and cost effectively. “Dell has a unique position in the marketplace,” says Ken Yale, JD, DDS, vice president of clinical solutions at Active Health Management, a healthcare-focused data analytics company. “A lot of their cloud-based services as well as their predictive analytics are specifically what the health system is moving towards.”
Within the next five years, genome sequencing will become commonplace, says Dr. Giselle Sholler, MD, chair of the Neuroblastoma & Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium, a group of universities and children’s hospitals that are researching ways to cure and treat Neuroblastoma, a rare cancer mostly found in children five years and under. Every cancer patient will be able to map his or her genome and have a drug regimen designed specifically for them.