A New Era in Healthcare: The Pacific Health Summit

This week I'm attending the Pacific Health Summit in Seattle. World renowned researcher and system's biology scientist, Dr. Leroy Hood, kicked off the Summit yesterday with an oratory on the four "P's" that will define the future model of healthcare delivery; Predictive, Preventative, Preemptive and Participatory. If anyone should know what the future holds for personalized medicine at the molecular level, it is Dr. Hood. His pioneering work on machines and processes to unravel the human genome are legend.

Dr. Hood says nanotechnology and molecular biology will allow us to screen a single drop of blood for thousands of genetic markers and diseases giving us the ability to Predict the likelihood of illness over a person's lifetime. With this information, steps can be taken to Prevent the disease from gaining hold. For instance, someone with a very high risk for a certain type of cancer might start taking a preventative drug or receive an immunization in childhood that will greatly reduce their personal risk. Should a disease still gain the upper hand, Preemptive treatment with highly personalized medicines at the earliest stages of illness, long before symptoms even manifest themselves, will pave the way for much improved cure rates. Finally, patients will take on a much more Participatory role in the management of their own wellness, prevention and treatment of disease.

It is evident that this future healthcare model will depend upon, and be made possible by, mathematical models and intelligent machines in addition to the capabilities of well-trained human minds. Computers, software, and humans will work together to deliver an unparalleled level of efficient, targeted and effective care.

We continued the discussion over dinner with a small group of notable physicians and scientists at Dr. Hood's Seattle home. My conclusion? In 20 to 50 years, the practice of medicine will perhaps be as different from today as today’s practice is compared to the era of Galen. It's a great time to be at the intersection of information technology, science, and medicine.

Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences