Self-awareness and professional health-care management are increasingly complementary in the digital age of medicine. Computers, mobile devices, and wearables are capturing information on patient conditions. They transmit data directly to patients and doctors and store data for baseline comparisons. Digital medicine is creating new medical knowledge and public health pathways.
Examples of digital medicine’s inroads abound. Futurists envision medicines tailor-made to individual patient conditions, much like in the early days of pharmacology but with greater precision. Real strides are expected, thanks to 3D data glasses, with doctors operating with greater precision and able to see patient histories at a glance.
Digital medicine is mapping how chemotherapy works in attacking cancer cells. Only 20 percent of current breast cancer, lung, stomach, and bowel cancer patients respond well to conventional treatments. Digital medicine allows doctors to use newly identified sensors measuring how strongly cells taken from the patient react to different chemotherapeutic agents. This hopefully will forefend unnecessary stress to the patient, cut costs, and increase success rates by personalizing the treatment modalities.
Big Data and Digital Medicine
Big data provide medical personnel with better personal health-care management, even of chronic and complex conditions. In addition, clinical practice improvements, biomedical research, personal and public health planning, and commercial uses of the data are transforming health-care planning.
Big data are the basis of service planning by governments, medical groups, and institutions. Epidemiologists are able to track in real time health-care analytics maximizing medical resources. We have witnessed this in the combat readiness and swift responses to the Ebola and Zika crises. Marketing companies are able to design more effective plans and strategies for pharmaceutical companies and retailers to better serve consumers.
Technologist Online (June 8, 2016) imagines therapies combatting mental illnesses like schizophrenia a possibility from big data gathered by digital medicine. It quotes a scientist who said, “Modern molecular medicine alone witnessed more data generated in 2015 than in the entire period from 1990 to 2005.”
Digital Medicine Increases Life Span
People with wearables are transmitting data directly to their phones and home computers, their physicians, and computers in hospital clinics 24/7. Medical wearables measure heart rate, blood pressure, stress level, weight, number of steps walked, floors climbed, and hours of sleep. One can track 150 parameters. People are quantifying their lives, hoping digital medicine will help them live longer and more comfortably.
The hope is the aggregated data will lead to better health-care maintenance and longevity. For instance, a heart monitor I wore, once for twenty-four hours and once for four weeks, transmitted data back to the cardiologist. He called me to discuss the data and their implications for exercise and prescribed medications. Private insurance paid almost all the bill, but little else is covered by insurance unless it is for chronic or acute conditions.
Much is changing so fast because of digital medicine that medical groups, patient-advocacy organizations, and hospitals need outsourcers just to keep apace and be able to implement what is possible at the local level.