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Digital Transformation in Health Care – III

The Digital Transformation in Health care. Image credit: IHME

Precision Health is the second area characterizing the evolution of health care. So far any cure, be it a medicine or a medical procedure (like a limb plaster), have been based on a statistical approach, i.e. leveraged on experience. By making a limb plaster in this way we have seen that the bone heals in the proper position, by taking this medicine people showing similar symptoms have experience remission of the symptoms and eventually recovered.

Testing a drug involves trying it out on animals first and then on groups of people and comparing the effects to detect its effectiveness (and lack of undesirable side effects).

The assumption, not completely unfounded, was that what would benefit a person would also benefit another one experiencing the same ailment.

However, also from experimental practice, doctors have seen (and have been puzzled) that persons apparently affected by the same ailment may respond differently to the same cure.

Many persons would recover, a few will not be affected by the cure and a very small number might react negatively to the cure with a worsening of their ailment.

We now understand that we are not exactly the same although we are very similar. This similarity is what has made the statistical approach to health care work, but the differences that exist explain while in some cases the cure is not effective.

My tibia and fibula are slightly different from yours, both in size/shape and most important in the ways I am using them leading to subtle differences in movement. Hence a fixing that is good for everybody will not be exactly good for me (and for you). If doctors would have the digital twin of my tibia and fibula also showing how they move the plaster and following re-education could be tailored to me leading to better and faster recovery.

This falls under the “precision health” approach, something that is becoming more and more possible as we have tools, and understanding, of the precise structure and working for each individual.

As shown in the figure there are a variety of areas that are specificity marker for each individual:

  • genome
  • proteome
  • metabolome
  • microbiome
  • circadian rhythm
  • epigenetics
  • exposome

I’ll discuss each one in the next post.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.