It aids the doctor to seek a patient’s unique disease risks and treatments that will work best for him or her
Precision medicine and healthcare is a medical model that entails the customisation of healthcare with treatments, medical decisions, practices, or products being tailor made for a subgroup of patients, instead of a one-drug-fits-all model.
Precision medicine and healthcare involve a combination of holistic approach and the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ and having continuous data and information about both patient and the disease.
It is worth observing the business world in an analogous analysis of precision health and medicine.
In the realm of business analytics in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relations Management (CRM), there are ongoing and continuous information and data aided by technology. In ERP, data is constantly available to organisations to make sense of the company’s operation, the various workers data, finance and the different departments’ information and functions. In CRM the company has the various customer profiles, spending and bill payment habits, their product preferences, etc.
All this information and data are important for efficient running of organisations. The proper and feasible functioning of the organisations rely on the accurate and availability of data and information and with the ability to make sense of the massive data to survive and stay functional. These compares well with the precision health and medicine we are going to see further on.
Genes, behaviors like eating, exercise and the environment are all factors that affect health. The aim of precision health is to have optimum health by measuring these factors and data compiled and acting on them. Interventions can be custom made to an individual, instead of using the same approach for everyone.
Precision medicine, also called personalised medicine, aids the doctor to seek an individual’s unique disease risks and treatments that will work best for him or her. Precision health on a wider spectrum includes not only precision medicine but also aspects that happen outside the realm of a clinic or hospital such as disease prevention and promotion of health activities.
Instances of precision medicine and health
- Prevention of disease in people with inherited conditions with right medicines – there are people who have inherited conditions that make them more susceptible to getting a disease. Women, say, with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation are at more risk at getting breast or ovarian cancer and men with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation are more likely to be exposed to some cancers.
- Tumor profiling – genetic testing of a tumor called tumor profiling, can help doctors choose a treatment that’s most likely to work. Even if two people have the same type of cancer, they may need different treatments. Tumor profiling can also predict if the cancer can return, which enables people to decide whether to have treatment like chemotherapy or radiation.
- Diabetes wearables or monitoring devices – this can help improve insulin dosage. Blood sugar needs regular monitoring and managing diabetes with insulin is paramount. Wearable arm sensors that constantly monitor blood sugar is crucial in insulin dosage, prevent complications and facilitates users to share results with their doctors.
- Pharmacogenomics – this enables doctors to prescribe the drug and dosage safe suited for a patient. A person’s response to a drug includes testing against his or her DNA. A drug may work on some people while it may not be efficacious on another and may even have side effects.
- Mobile devices – this can support healthy living and improve chronic disease. Personal devices can monitor behaviors such as activity, diet and sleeping habits. They can also help remind us to take medicine, do cancer screenings and attend regular check-ups.
- Newborn screenings – detecting medical conditions early to prevent complications is good. Babies born are checked for certain medical conditions soon after birth. This entails doing a blood test and screenings for hearing deficiencies and heart defects. Identifying conditions and treating them early can prevent disability or death.
Precision medicine aided by AI used for Covid-19
The EU-funded Symptoma project is aimed at improving diagnostic quality while reducing costs and time. The Symptoma team developed an accurate digital health assistant. It entails the use of a chatbot that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ask disease specific follow-up questions after processing the information entered by a user.
The Symptoma team applied its symptom checker for Covid-19 in January 2020, making it the first and only AI system to differentiate it from 20,000 other diseases, even those with similar symptoms. Results for over 1,000 cases showed a 96.32 per cent accuracy at assessing the Covid-19 risk in symptomatic patients. Since then, governments, hospitals and companies have used Symptoma’s technology to help fight the pandemic. The symptom checker has provided more than 100 million risk assessments related to Covid-19. These were combined with thousands of diagnostic test results, leading to real-world evidence and better understand the virus and its symptoms.
The problem these days, however, is the proliferation of the variants, especially that of the Delta variant which is causing much concern on whether AI aided precision medicine can continue to help contain the pandemic.
More research is certainly needed for this wonderful innovation of precision medicine. — The Health
Zulkifli Ahmad is the founder of ESG Vision, a think tank advocating ideas and actions on sustainability. He is also a member at KSF Space Foundation USA and a member of ICC’s Chambers Climate Change.