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Articles

How Personalized Medicine is Transforming Patient Care

Medical technology concept.
Published August 10, 2020 3 minute read

Personalized medicine, the tailoring of medical treatments to each patient, is becoming more common thanks to advances in technology. This individualized approach has the potential to improve overall care, surgical outcomes, and the treatment of diseases like COVID-19.

Personalized medicine, or precision medicine as it is sometimes called, has been paving the way to advancing how we treat patients. From cancers to chronic diseases to COVID-19, we are developing targeted therapies for individual patients that lead to fewer side effects and better outcomes.

What is personalized medicine used for?

Gathering a patient’s measurements and data from scans and exams creates a digital replica of that patient, known as a digital patient model or digital twin. The digital patient model provides more detailed information which can be used for a personalized medicine approach to one’s healthcare.

We have come a long way in terms of personalizing our world. Decades ago, it was the ultimate level of personalization to make a mixtape of all your favorite songs. Fast forward to today and you can now personalize far more than just your music collection. We personalize our phones with apps tailored to our individual needs. Our streaming services make suggestions based on our viewing history. We have smart home devices and virtual assistants that provide our ideal temperature and lighting levels depending on our moods.

As we touch on in our article O.R. Trends 2020: Three Crucial Technologies for the Future of Surgery, advancements in technology for the general public also trickle down into medicine eventually. It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that people are also looking to bring that high level of customization to their healthcare. Personalized medicine has become a buzzword in the healthcare community over the last several years. This article aims to answer the questions: What is personalized medicine and why is it important?

What is personalized medicine?

Personalized medicine is the tailoring of medical treatments to the individual characteristics of each patient.[1] As our understanding of how a person’s unique molecular biology and genetic profile makes them susceptible to various diseases evolves, so has our ability to come up with individualized treatment plans that provide more targeted treatments with the promise of improving healthcare.[1]

This approach differs from the more common physician practice of trial and error diagnosing: the doctor determines a likely healthcare condition related to symptoms, establishes a treatment plan based on general stats such as weight and age, and continues to make adjustments to that treatment until an effective plan has been established for the individual.

What are the benefits of personalized medicine?

Personalized medicine shifts the focus of medicine from reactive to proactive. The benefit to patients is that doctors have a better ability to predict which treatments will work best for specific patients. When doctors use patients’ genetic and other molecular information as part of routine medical care, they can preempt disease detection and prescribe more effective drugs.

How does personalized medicine impact the treatment of illnesses like COVID-19?

One area we are seeing the personalized medicine initiative being used today is to help fight our current coronavirus global pandemic. Scientists are now using artificial intelligence and the digital patient model to identify high risk genes for COVID-19.[2] Other research focuses on determining if drugs developed for other illnesses can be repurposed to treat coronavirus. These drugs could be used to develop new therapeutic strategies to increase survival rate of patients who develop complications like sepsis while suffering from severe COVID-19.[3] Data-driven insights help isolate and identify associated and underlying conditions and connect those with complications occurring in patients with severe COVID-19 reactions.

Why is personalized medicine important in the operating room?

Digitalizing the operating room with software and infrastructure help surgeons drive personalized procedures based on disease, past treatment outcomes and best practice guidelines.

Personalization in medicine also goes beyond the patient: A digital operating room can be customized to a specific surgeon and their preferred workflows, enabling them to create and execute the best possible surgical plan for the patient. This plan can be updated in near real time as the surgery takes place, enriching the digital patient model with more information and further building the patient’s medical journey.

The future of personalized medicine

By making it easier for doctors to create a more personalized plan for each individual patient, we are seeing better outcomes for those patients.[1] By tracking the data that comes from this new approach to patient treatments, we’re developing a deeper understanding of personalized preventative medicine that informs best practice across a range of clinical indications and that continues to deliver patient success stories.

[1] Vogenberg FR, Isaacson Barash C, Pursel M. Personalized medicine: part 1: evolution and development into theranostics. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957753/. Published October 2010. Accessed July 15, 2020.

[2] Price S. AI precision medicine mining finds 13 human COVID-19 risk genes. Health Europa. https://www.healtheuropa.eu/ai-precision-medicine-mining-finds-13-human-covid-19-risk-genes/99851/. Published May 20, 2020. Accessed August 4, 2020.

[3] Zhang W, Zhao Y, Zhang F, et al. The use of anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of people with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): The Perspectives of clinical immunologists from China. Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7102614/. Published May 2020. Accessed July 20, 2020.

Jocelyn Mohr

Author