Genomics – Disruptive Technologies in Healthcare

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Disruptive technologies have played a significant role through the ages in leapfrogging the paradigms of healthcare systems

Innovation and medicine go together.

In modern times medicine has been transformed by waves of discovery that have brought marvels like antibiotics, vaccines and heart stents.

Disruptive technologies have played a significant role through the ages in leapfrogging the paradigms of healthcare systems. The advent of radiology, for instance, introduced a field of medicine, which transformed the practice of healthcare. On the other hand innovations such as home blood glucose monitors for people with diabetes, blood pressure monitors, and wearable medical devices have changed health care management to move more into the hands of the individual.

Disruption has always made the health care stakeholders far better off than they had been. Genomics too will transform the health care industry in the same way.

The Human Genome mapping is considered to be amongst the greatest scientific advances of modern times. In 2000, announcing the completion of the genome’s first draft, President Bill Clinton said, “Today, we are learning the language in which God created life.” “It is now conceivable,” he added, “that our children’s children will know the term cancer only as a constellation of stars.”

Mapping the human genome was so ground breaking because for the first time it allowed researchers to untangle the genetic basis for disease. In 1990, the 13-year, $3 billion, Human Genome Project started a new industry. From then to now, innovations in sequencing technologies have dramatically cut the sequencing time to under a few hours and at affordable rates. Now, thousands of genomes from a cross-section of ethnic backgrounds have been sequenced. It is now beyond debate that the advances in genomics will change the way we look at human health and the healthcare system; the way healthcare is delivered and medicine is practised.

In India, Genomics is at a tipping point. It will be fascinating to witness the industry’s response to this disruptive technology that may threaten the status quo but will ultimately raise the quality of health care for everyone.

It will lead to the creation of a new model of health and healthcare that will have an impact on the economic and social fabric of human lives and lead to profound and lasting cultural change. Globally, its role in health and disease has already been truly disruptive and transformational with substantial impact.

To get a sense of what those disruptions might be, let’s look briefly at what it can do. Personalized medicine’s greatest strides have been in cancer. Cancer, often being a genetic disease has been the poster child for using personalized medicine strategies. Its use spans the spectrum from risk assessment in healthy people, screening, diagnosis, and prognosis to selecting therapies based on genetics and the pathology of the tumour.

For instance, personalized cancer treatments, based on genetic sequencing of individuals’ tumours to identify specific mutations driving the disease. This means that patients spend less time and cost in care, which has a domino effect on not only the individual’s personal life, and the impact on his/her family life, but also reduces the pressure over time on the hospitals.

Another major promise of genomic medicine is the control it can provide individuals over their own health. Thus a person who learns after a genomic test that he, for example, has asignificant increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes or of becoming obese, he has more motivation to change diet and lifestyle.

The potential for personalized medicine to transform medical practice has been much discussed. The recent advances in the field of genomics are giving physicians more sophisticated diagnostic methods and a greater understanding of the disease. Further, patients, who are becoming more aware and conscious of their health care, seek transparency in their healthcare management, driving acceptance of genetic screening and risk-identification as part of routine healthcare. The information from these tests is becoming clinically relevant and actionable, increasing their use and overall impact on healthcare outcomes.

The personalized medicine revolution is almost here.

It is reasonable to predict that genomics will lead to a paradigm shift. The genomics revolution in health care will propel innovation, new therapies and approaches. The discussion is not about what impact genomic medicine will have on healthcaremanagement, but how to integrate genomics into the healthcare system so as to reap its full potential.

It is a new form of information. Our health care system needs to be transformed for exploiting this information. However, today’s physicians are not yet widely trained to interpret genomic information. Government and health care industry leaders need to step forward, to help organizations, hospitals, and health professionals’ work together to facilitate disruption.

The impact of genomics on healthcare delivery will be significant. As outcomes dramatically improve and personalized medicine becomes the centre of medical innovation, the practice of healthcare will change dramatically. A change in approach from retrospective, interventional care to prospective, preventive care that is highly personalized and pre-emptive.

We’re at an inflection point! Disruptive concepts such as Personalised Medicine will start to move that needle. It will result in the transformation to a health care system that will benefit the patients, the hospital, the physicians and the society as a whole.