Personalized healthcare is the process of taking into account of patient’s unique characteristics such as clinical history and risk factors to provide them personalized care and treatments. The term, personalized care or personalized medicine has increased in popularity recently thanks to two factors:
- Deeper understanding of disease and human characteristics thanks to advances in genome sequencing
- New diagnostic approaches thanks to advances in machine learning including deep learning
What are the factors that enable personalized care?
Understanding the patient
Patients’ genetic tests have a major play in personalized medicine and are used for diagnostic testing.
The human genome is one of the most complex things that could not be solved completely. Every person has a unique genetic code. Personalized care is about understanding patients unique biology to understand diseases. Determining the molecules involved with the disease can provide a broader understanding of a person’s state of health.
Understanding the disease
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is a study to understand a particular disease. The aim is to determine genes involved in human disease. Researchers examine SNPs, (pronounced “snips”) single nucleotide polymorphisms that are small variables that occur more frequently in people with a particular disease than in people without the disease, at the same time to identify genes that may contribute to a person’s risk of developing a certain disease.
The first GWAS conducted in 2005 to study patients with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Since then, more than 1300 GWAS has conducted.
After understanding the disease and its conductive genes, it is easier to predict the risk of specific disease for a person, based on one or even several genes. It allows the physician to initiate preventative treatment before the disease presents itself in their patient.
How does personal care increase quality of life?
Tech developments enable to access patient data and analytics easier. Patient data could be obtained from inpatient records and questioning outpatients which is not an accurate and unclear information. Personalized care solutions fill the gap between clinical encounters. Nowadays, simple armbands connected to an app on smartphones, devices evaluating your sleep quality at night, apps that count your steps and measure heartbeats provide accurate, reliable and real-time patient data which cannot be obtained between clinical encounters. Recognizing cause of a disease and having real-time individual patient data can help healthcare providers to predict the potential of a disease for individuals and recommend personal medications and precise treatments instantly.
Reduced cost of healthcare and personal devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets providing platforms for personal care enable people to access to treatments wherever they are and whenever they want. There are different types of personal care applications:
1- Early Diagnosis
Cancer is one of the most dangerous diseases in our day. Cancer types that are common in males are lung cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. In females, the most common types are breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and cervical cancer. There is no to certain cure with traditional medicines. Test and treatments are expensive and tough in terms of patient experience. Pain and symptom management are an important part of care planning and care delivery. Additionally, cost of regular cancer treatment planning is about $895 billion annually. Surviving is only highly possible if it diagnosed early.
Developments in computer vision, machine learning and predictive models enable machines to detect risk for the disease. Some apps can detect cancer even from a selfie.
- Pancreatic cancer is considered as one of the most dangerous cancer because there are often no obvious symptoms or non-invasive screening tools to identify a tumor before it spreads. It is known that early symptom of pancreatic cancer is yellowing of the skin and sclera due to increased bilirubin levels. However, it is often not possible to see with naked-eye on early stage. An app called BillScreen can detect early stages of pancreatic cancer by detecting increased bilirubin levels in a person’s sclera – the white part of the eye.
- Another cancer detection app, available on Google Play, Mole Detective analyzes pictures of skin moles to detect skin cancer. App uses computer vision and ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter and evolution) method to calculate person’s risk of skin cancer based on the characteristics of the mole.
- Another app called Autism & Beyond collects data from parents with children who have ASD to analyze and spot signs of developmental delays at an earlier age. The app can analyze emotion from videos and researchers hope to automate screening of autism and anxiety.
Personal care is not about diseases and treatment. The interest in healthy lifestyle has risen. Some apps are designed for health plan.
2- Fitness Apps
A health plan cannot be considered without sport. However, it is important to know your body and where to start. Some apps provide personal training programs.
- Jefit: This all-in-one app contains powerful fitness routine planning and tracking tools that help you target your workouts and keep easy track of your progress.
- Noom: Noom asks you about body type, personal questions and habits to provide personal training and nutrition recommendations.
3- Diet Program Apps
Achieving a healthy body and lifestyle is not possible only with training and exercises. Most important supplements are nutritious. What and when you eat has a great effect on your quality of your life.
MyFitnessPal: When you add your personal stats (height, age, sex, weight, target weight and so on) the app will work out how many calories you can consume each day to hit your target in the timeframe you specify.
Other than personal trainer and nutrition consultant applications, there are many apps for personal care like:
4- Sleep tracking apps
5- Step counting apps
6- Heartbeat tracking apps
These apps also record the data to give insight about patients and help healthcare providers to ensure more personal and better treatments.
Tech giants’ approaches
Leading tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have different approaches to personal healthcare.
- Every use case and solution we mentioned above rely on data. Protected health information (PHI) is one of the most sensitive data. Microsoft Cloud for Health has industry-leading security and privacy practices that allow customers around the world for storing PHI.
- Apple is one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers. Reportedly, there are more than 700 million iPhones currently being used in the world. Apple products and apps on IOS help healthcare providers work effectively within hospitals, connect remotely with patients, and conduct medical research. Apple naturally provides a platform for better healthcare tools through its products.
- One of the biggest online retailer Amazon approaches healthcare in its own way by making supply chains more efficient, simplifying contract administration and bringing comparison shopping to healthcare.
Some developers using visual and voice recognition to monitor emotional, cognitive and physiological states to provide objective measures that can be correlated with the speaker’s mental health status to detect depression, imminent suicide risk, military PTSD and traumatized adolescents.
Doctella has an interesting approach to personal care. The app claimed itself as “Digital Health Studio for Providers” allow healthcare providers to create a customized patient apps using a simple online tool. These apps or CarePrograms interact with sensors on patients’ everyday devices keep track their records and notify providers about patients’ progress for necessary interventions. The app is free up to 25 patients.
Benefits of personalized care
With the medical data available, AI is transforming the healthcare. AI can benefit both organizations and patients.
- Reduced cost
- It predicts the length of hospitalization for better optimization.
- Reduces the research cost
- Assisted or automated diagnosis & prescription reduces the healthcare cost
- Increase in revenue
- Creates optimal marketing strategy for the brand based on market perception and target segment
- Increase patient engagement and satisfaction
- Personalized care make the patients more satisfied
- Decreases mortality rate
- Early diagnosis is the most important factor for a successful treatment
- Real-time treatment with remote control via healthcare apps is vital
How can we do better?
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